Millennials Choose School Choice
By Jake Penwell, State Director
Over the course of its 17 year history, ACE Scholarships has found that American business and government leaders either favor school choice, or are firmly against it. This polarization has been the standard for decades, with little room to find common ground. However, that tendency seems to be fading with today’s young adults. While researching current opinions on school choice the other day, I was surprised and encouraged by a recent poll by GenForward, a nationally representative survey run by the University of Chicago, that showed strong support for school choice among millennials.
The poll found that 79% of African-Americans surveyed support voucher programs for low-income students, as do 76% of Asian-Americans, 77% of Latinos, and 66% percent of Caucasians. The survey also found that, overall, 75% of millennials surveyed believe that “students with fewer economic resources get a worse education than those from wealthy backgrounds.” Overall, GenForward found that millennials value all approaches to education, and believe that teachers and schools are deserving of strong support.
But why do millennials believe in school choice when each prior generation seems to be so divided on the issue? I believe that this difference in perspective is due in part to the unique and technologically driven environment they came of age in.
Today’s young adults grew up in diverse educational settings, with friends attending traditional public schools, independent schools, charter schools, online schools, and even home schools. Because they witnessed a variety of instructional styles, they see no inconsistency in supporting both public schools and school-choice options.
Furthermore, it is vital to note that millennials embrace alternative learning styles due to their early exposure to technology. Unlike older generations, they grew up playing video games that –while not necessarily educational –required them to learn new skills and solve complex problems. Because they are comfortable learning in a non-traditional setting, many millennials are open to the idea that learning can take place outside of a typical classroom. Today, through many different learning platforms, millennials have numerous choices for how and where they acquire new skills and knowledge. Therefore, it is not terribly surprising that millennials would support school-choice; they understand that there is no “one size fits all” formula in education.
ACE Scholarships and other school-choice programs break the generational cycle of poverty that plagues many low-income families and neighborhoods by empowering parents with the means necessary to choose the best education for their children.
By providing a pathway for success for students who are failing in a public school, ACE demonstrates that independent schools are not in competition with public schools, but rather an alternate option. With the support of the emerging millennial generation, and the significant need and proven success when supporting low income families, school choice has a bright future. Until every child has equal access to quality education, ACE Scholarships will be here to make a difference.
Contact Jake Penwell at JPenwell@ACEScholarships.org