Families in Virginia strongly in favor of students accessing the public school that best fits their needs
RICHMOND, Va. — Two-thirds of Virginia voters (67%) polled — and a greater number of parents (72%) — agree that all children in the state should be able to attend the public school of their choice, even if they do not live within its attendance boundaries — according to a new poll released by yes. every kid. While Virginians support students attending a public school that is best for them, they also expressed overwhelming agreement to end school zoning discrimination. Two-thirds of voters as well as parents (66%) are also against forcing a child to stay in a public school that they do not want to attend.
The findings show that families believe that boundaries between students and the schools they wish to attend should not exist. Nearly all voters and parents (97%) agree that all Virginia students should have access to the best public schools, regardless of race, gender or income.
In fact, the survey found that an overwhelming majority of voters (84%) — and parents (81%) — agree that students who live in underserved districts should have the same access to high-quality public schools as students in more affluent neighborhoods.
“Access to a great public school should not be determined by a family’s wealth or where they live,” said Craig Hulse, executive director of yes. every kid. “Yet, longstanding geographic barriers have prevented too many Virginia students from attending the schools that are best for them, exacerbating decades of inequities. Virginians have signaled a strong desire for every child to have equal access to the best public school that meets their unique learning styles. In 2023, we will continue to work alongside families to put an end to zoning discrimination, empowering families to access the school that is best for their child.”
Across the nation, a family’s address largely determines the school that their child can access, also referred to as residential assignment. However, many school zones of today often align with zoning restrictions from the 1930s. During the New Deal era, many families of color were denied mortgages because they lived in a certain zone. The parallels between these practices and education policies are still evident in Virginia, which has arbitrary district boundaries that have left behind students in underserved communities. Virginia is one of 16 remaining states that still has a policy in which a child attending any school is a criminal statute, according to Available to All, a nonprofit watchdog group defending equal access to public schools.
“All families deserve an equal opportunity to enroll in the best schools within their state,” said Tim DeRoche, president of Available to All. “We want to see a world in which a child’s home address does not play such a critical role in determining his or her destiny. To remedy years of inequality in education, we must consider robust open enrollment policies that weaken the ties between housing and schooling. Because every family should have an equal opportunity to enroll their child in a coveted school that could dramatically change their life trajectory.”
“The purpose of education is to help every child become the best version of themselves. Right now, we prioritize where a child lives over who they aspire to be and we can and must do better than that,” said Derrell Bradford, president of 50CAN. “We must stop assigning kids to public schools based on their home address. And we must focus on empowering kids to succeed on their own terms, regardless of where they live.”
The sentiment in Virginia is emblematic of a larger national trend, in which families are calling for more opportunities other than the district school they are assigned to attend. In recent years, families who changed schools to meet the unique needs of their children voiced that their child experienced a positive change as a result of the switch. Removing residential assignments can create better learning opportunities for both students and families.
The poll was conducted by WPA Intelligence from October 22-24, 2022. The sample size was n=504 of registered voters with a margin of error of ±4.4 percent.
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