Support for charter schools has often been viewed in largely pragmatic terms, but the movement to establish this popular alternative to public schools has had significant religious and particularly evangelical involvement and interest, according to a study in Social Science Quarterly (June).
Author Andrea Vieux writes that conventional wisdom suggests religious conservatives would most likely favor school choice policies, such as school vouchers, allowing parents to utilize public monies to send their children to private religious schools. But, the strong opposition that school voucher advocates have faced and the far greater acceptance of charter schools across the states have complicated this situation for religious conservatives. Vieux finds that states with larger religiously conservative populations will tend to have less restrictive charter school laws.
She finds that the percentage of both evangelical and Mormon populations is a statistically significant predictor of charter school regulations. There is an especially clear inverse relationship between fewer charter school regulations and higher evangelical populations. States where even just a quarter of the population is evangelical are most likely to allow charter schooling with little or no regulation.
Vieux argues that evangelicals and Mormons share the common ground of being highly mobilized and have “moved under the radar” to limit regulations, while teachers’ unions and legislatures have been unable or unwilling to enter into conflict with these groups.
(Social Science Quarterly, http://socialsciencequarterly.org/Home_Page.html)