A new poll shows that in one of the most liberal of states–California–charter schools are impressing voters by a wide margin, particularly among Latino parents. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Among those surveyed in the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll, 52% had a favorable opinion about charters; only 12% had an unfavorable impression.

Asked whether charter schools or traditional schools provided a better education, 48% gave superior marks to charters; 24% considered traditional schools more effective.

The charter model appealed to Latino parents in particular. Overall, 52% of parents — those who have a child or grandchild age 18 or under living at home — said they would consider enrolling their children in a charter, compared to 38% who said they would not. Among Latino parents, 56% were in favor and 30% disinclined. More than half the state’s public school students are Latino.

The news of Californians’ favorable view of charter schools comes in what has been a banner year for school choice nationally. Heritage’s Lindsey Burke and Rachel Sheffield write that charter schools–which are publicly funded and free from many of the rules and bureaucracy governing traditional public schools–are growing in popularity. According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, during the 2010–2011 school year, there were 5,277 charter schools in operation, representing 5.4 percent of all public schools. And demand for seats in those schools is high, with roughly 65 percent reporting waiting lists (up from 58 percent in 2008).

And there’s more good news. In 2011, twelve states created or expanded school choice options, and the District of Columbia’s Opportunity Scholarship Program was reauthorized. Burke and Sheffield detail the state of school choice in America today:

Today, families in 18 states and the District of Columbia benefit from private school choice options. More than 200,000 children are benefiting from vouchers, tuition tax credit programs, and education savings accounts to pay for tuition at a private school of their parents’ choice. Millions more benefit from virtual education options, charter schools, public school choice, and homeschooling.

More though must be done to ensure that every child has access to a safe and effective school. And it’s up to Congress and state and local leaders to take action.

Read more in School Choice in America 2011: Educational Opportunity Reaches New Heights at Heritage.org.