Great River Christian School in Burlington, IA.
Photo credit: Ian Pollet

When I expressed skepticism about The Des Moines Register’s poll on school choice I referenced EdChoice’s 2013 survey of Iowans. I had missed that a more recent survey of Iowans had been done which totally contradicts the Register poll.

As I mentioned before the Register asked whether or not public money should be used for non-public school. It did not provide any context or any information for participants.

The 2017 survey was commissioned by Iowa Advocates for Choice in Education, LS2, and EdChoice.  It was conducted by Braun Research, Inc. (January 19-24, 2017; N=1200; +/-2.8% w/a 95% confidence level) and it is eyeopening.

It shows that the environment for advancing Education Savings Accounts (ESV) in Iowa is excellent.

Below are some key findings:

Strong majority of Iowans would choose a non-public school option, if they could…

In fact, 60% of Iowans said if they had the option to select “any kind of school for your child…” they would select something other than a regular public school.

By more than a 2-to-1 margin, Iowans say our public schools have “gotten worse”…

While a majority of Iowans believe the quality of Iowa’s K-12 public schools remains GOOD/EXCELLENT (58%), more than twice as many Iowans believe that our schools have GOTTEN WORSE (48%) than believe they have GOTTEN BETTER (23%) over the past few years.

Cost of private school options key impediment to parental choice…

Of those surveyed who send their children to public schools, but who would choose to use non-public options if they could, 60% said COST was the primary impediment to making that choice.

Super-Majority of Iowans support the creation of Educational Savings Accounts in Iowa to help with “educational expenses for school-aged children”…

70% of Iowans indicated support for the creation of Education Savings Accounts that provide “all families with a grant of state funds to pay for approved educational expenses for school…” including… “private school tuition, tutoring, therapies for special needs, or some combination…”

Messages about ESAs that resonate with Iowans, include…

Here are some of the messages that Iowans find most compelling when talking about ESAs (including data and intensity):

  • Parents should have the freedom to choose that are necessary for their child’s success:  71-29 (28-9)
  • ESAs give parents options to seek schools with smaller class sizes and more individualized teacher attention:  72-28 (32-9)
  • ESAs offer parents the opportunity to access schools with curriculums that better fit their needs (high level science, engineering, and math):    71-29 (23-8)
  • ESAs would be available to all families, regardless of income or special needs:  65-35 (23-10)

Iowans are ready for school choice in general and ESAs in particular.

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