Photo credit: K.W. Barrett Elementary School (CC-By-2.0)
Photo credit: K.W. Barrett Elementary School (CC-By-2.0)

Gallup released a poll that showed President Donald Trump’s school choice agenda was one of four things that had bipartisan support.

Gallup asked 1,526 random Americans whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement:  “Provide federal funding for school-choice programs that allow students to attend any private or public school.” The polling has a margin of error of +/- 3.0 percent.

59 percent of Americans agreed with providing federal funding for school choice. Only 26 percent disagreed. Among Republicans, the spread was larger with 74 percent agreeing with using federal funds for school choice with only 14 percent disagreeing. There is growing support among Democrats with a plurality showing support for federal funding for school choice – 46 percent in favor to 38 percent opposed.

This poll echoes national polling done by the American Federation of Children who found in their 2017 poll 68 percent supporting and only 28 percent opposing school choice programs. 84 percent of Republicans, 55 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of Independents indicated support for school choice in their poll. It also demonstrated strong support among Latinos (75%), African Americans (72%), and Millennials (75%).

EdChoice (formerly known as the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice) conducted a poll of Americans last fall. They found a majority of Americans (56%) say they support school vouchers, compared with 28 percent who say they oppose such a school choice system. Current school parents (67%) are significantly more favorable when it comes to vouchers, compared to non-parents (53%), former school parents (52%), and the national average. Republicans (66%) are more likely to indicate support for school vouchers than Independents (55%), Democrats (53%), and the national average. They also found young adults (64%) are more favorable toward school vouchers than seniors (49%).

They also found that nearly half of Americans (49%) say they support an “education savings account” system (“ESA”).

These national polls show that Iowans’ support for school choice is stronger than the national average.

I referenced the last poll EdChoice conducted of Iowans on the school choice question:

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…”

I am a school choice supporter, but I have reservations about direct federal funding of school choice especially if it involves a federal voucher program. I don’t see how they would not attach strings. Would private schools receiving federal funds receive accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act? A rule like that would require them to adopt assessments aligned to their standards; it could force Common Core into non-public schools as individual schools can’t afford to create assessments, and the path of least resistance would be to follow what their state is doing.

An argument for federal funding for school choice would be the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program; I can also see federal funding for Education Savings Accounts for children at Bureau of Indian Education and Department of Defense schools. Most school choice programs should start at the state level. If there is any federal funds allocated for school choice programs it should only be through block grants made to states with little to no direction on how states should use that money.

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