WASHINGTON — AMERICANS are not ready to abandon public schools, even though many think private schools are better at pushing high academic standards and keeping order.
More than half of parents with children in public schools would send their children to private schools if they could, according to a poll released Tuesday by the nonpartisan group Public Agenda. The poll also found most people would fix public schools rather than spend tax money on alternatives.
Asked what they would favor if local schools had failed to give a quality education for more than a decade, the poll found:
* 48 percent supported fixing the public schools - 28 percent by overhauling them, 20 percent by providing more money.
* 28 percent supported giving parents tax money to pay for private schools, a main goal of Christian conservatives.
* 10 percent supported letting private companies run public schools.
Americans also overwhelmingly back teaching the ''basics,'' which include reading, writing, arithmetic, and increasingly, how to use computers - 92 percent of respondents said they were ''absolutely essential.''