School Choice: Kids going to St. Theresa Catholic School.

When Iowans were asked about what their preferred school setting for their children was, only 49% said they would choose a public school first.  38% of Iowans said they would prefer to send their child to a private school.  5% of Iowans respectively said they would send their child to a charter school or home school their kids.  The same poll showed that Iowans overwhelmingly approved of school choice measures such as charter schools, school vouchers and education savings accounts.

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice commissioned the “Iowa K-12 & School Choice Survey” that was conducted by Braun Research, Inc.  They asked numerous questions related to issues and policy proposals in K-12 education.

A total of 605 Iowans were interviewed from June 24 to July 2, 2013 with a margin of error of +/- 4.0%.  27% of those surveyed were a K-12 parent.  The sample breakdown by voter registration: 33% were Democrat, 25% were Republican and 32% were Independent.  The geographic breakdown: 22% lived in an urban setting, 21% suburban, 39% of participants lived in a small town, and 17% lived in rural settings.

Regarding school choice, the survey report noted:

Approximately 7% of Iowa’s K-12 student population attend private schools, but in our survey interviews, 38% of respondents would select a private school as a  first option. About 93% of the state’s students attend regular public schools, but a much lower percentage of the state’s voters (49%) would choose a regular public  school as a first choice. Only several hundred students in Iowa have the  opportunity to attend a public charter school, but in our survey about 5% of  respondents said that they would like to send their child to a charter school.  Another 5% said he/she would opt to homeschool their child.

In a follow-up question, respondents in our survey prioritize “better  education/quality” (12%) as the key attribute they are looking for in the selection of their preferred school. The second school attribute cited most was  “socialization/peers/other students” (10%).

The survey also found that Iowa voters are twice as likely to favor charter schools (50%) than oppose them (25%).  Also a majority of Iowans support school vouchers (54%) compared to 38% who oppose them.

Regarding school vouchers they note:

The demographic groups most likely to favor school vouchers are school parents (66%), those living in rural areas (61%), Republicans (73%), conservatives (70%), young voters (60%), middle-age voters (62%), and low-income earners (59%). The groups that are least likely to support vouchers are Democrats (41%),political moderates (39%), and older voters (44%).

They also found that Iowa voters are more likely to support an education savings account (ESA) system (48%) than oppose it (38%).  The report found:

The demographic groups most likely to favor ESAs are school parents (58%),Republicans (55%), conservatives (54%), young voters (60%), middle-age voters (56%), and those not religiously affiliated (62%). The groups that are least likely to support ESAs are political moderates (41%) and older voters (37%).

The groups having the highest margins of support for ESAs include school parents (+30 points), Eastern Iowans (+16 points), Republicans (+27 points), liberals (+15 points), young voters (+32 points), middle-age voters (+26 points), Catholics (+17 points), and those not religiously affiliated (+35 points). In relative contrast, the smallest margins are among non-schoolers (+3 points), rural residents (+4 points), and Democrats (+1 point). Older voters (-13 points) are  most negative on ESAs.

Iowans also preferred universal access to education savings accounts compared to eligibility that is based just on financial need.

Nearly six out of 10 voters (57%) said they agree with the statement that “ESAs should be available to all families, regardless of incomes and special needs.”  Nearly one-third of respondents (32%) “strongly agree” with this statement. About one-third (34%) disagree with this statement; 21% said they “strongly disagree.”

Approximately 33% of Iowa voters said they agree with the statement that “ESAs should only be available to families based on financial need.” Fifteen percent of respondents “strongly agree” with this statement. A solid majority (59%) said they disagree with means-testing ESAs, and 36% said they “strongly disagree.”

On the heels of this report, Iowa Advocates for Choice in Education announced this week that they are pursuing Education Savings Accounts for Iowa’s school children this upcoming legislative session.  The Friedman Foundation survey shows that it, and school choice in general, enjoys bipartisan support.  Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education released an introductory video last month on Education Savings Accounts:

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