Photo credit: Mithril Cloud (CC-By-SA 3.0)
Photo credit: Mithril Cloud (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Since we write a lot about education policy at Caffeinated Thoughts, we wanted to poll our readers who plan on voting in Iowa’s Republican Primary on June 5, 2018, their views on different policies related to education. We asked questions about public school open enrollment, education savings accounts, the Common Core State Standards, and we added a question about homeschooling that was not included in our 2014 survey.

Public School Open Enrollment

Currently, Iowa law allows public school districts to turn down open enrollment if they have a diversity plan on file with the state. Davenport, Des Moines, Postville, Waterloo, and West Liberty are the only school districts that have submitted diversity plans for the 2017-2018 school year. These decisions had been determined by race, but after a Supreme Court ruling stopped that practice, these school districts now decide this by determining whether or not a family qualifies for free or reduced school lunches. If you are eligible, it is more likely that your application will be approved.

We asked, “Do you believe certain school districts in Iowa should be able to reject a family’s application for open enrollment based on socioeconomic status?”

Our Iowa Republican readers overwhelmingly said no.

When asked “Do you believe certain school districts in Iowa should be able to reject a family’s application for open enrollment based on socioeconomic status?” 79.8 percent of our Iowa Republican survey participants said no. Only 4.3 percent of participants answered yes. In 2014, when we asked the same question, 80.5 percent of Republican participants said no with 6.4 percent of participants saying yes.

Education Savings Accounts

The Iowa Legislature for the last several sessions has offered bills that would create Education Savings Accounts to give parents greater ability to choose different education options for their children. For parents who participate, the state would deposit the amount they spend per student on public schools (or some other amount) into an account where parents can then spend funds on a variety of educational options for their child – private school tuition, textbooks, tutors, etc.

This idea remains extremely popular among our Republican participants.

We asked, “Do you support the concept of education savings accounts where state school aid per child would follow the child to the educational setting of their parent’s choice (tutoring, online school, homeschool, private school, etc.)?”

71.8 percent of our Republican participants said they favor Education Savings Accounts with 15.4 percent who stated that they didn’t. This number reflects an 11 point drop from 2014 where 82.2 percent of Republican participants said they favored Education Savings Accounts and 6.8 percent said they didn’t. ESAs were more popular among parents with 73.8 percent of our participants with school-age children said they supported the idea with only 14.6 percent saying they didn’t. Evangelicals provided the greatest amount of support with 78.5 percent favoring ESAs and 10.2 percent opposing the idea. Catholics favored ESAs 62.1 percent to 20.6 percent. Conservatives also overwhelmingly support ESAs with 76.8 percent supporting ESAs and 9.7 percent opposing them.


The Des Moines Register has been on the war path ever since the Iowa Legislature passed an education reform package that included new homeschooling freedom in 2013.

The first change to Iowa’s homeschooling law included making reporting guidelines under Competent Private Instruction (CPI) optional. Families opting to homeschool under CPI would still submit the CPI form to their local school district, but they would not be required to turn in assessments, portfolios, or have a supervisory teacher. The second change was introducing Independent Private Instruction that eliminated all reporting to the state and the need to turn in a CPI form to their local school district. It also allowed home educators to teach up to four students who were not in their immediate family.

Since then The Des Moines Register in tandem with Iowa Democrats have attacked homeschooling liberty that includes, by my count, three separate editorials and an op/ed written by Rekha Basu.

Because of this, I wanted to ask our Iowa readers who identify as Republican, “Do you believe that Iowa homeschoolers should have to report to their local school districts?”

Our survey participants overwhelmingly said no, but I was still surprised by the number of participants who said yes.

There was little uncertainty on this issue, only 2.7 percent of our participants stated that they were unsure. 76.6 percent said they did not believe homeschoolers should have to report to local school districts. 20.7 percent said yes.

Evangelicals had the widest margin of opposition with 72.4 percent saying no and 14.2 percent saying yes. Among participants with school-aged children, 70.5 percent said no, and 19.7 percent said yes. Among conservatives, 62.7 said no, and 14.2 percent said yes.

Moderates were the only group to have a plurality of participants who said yes to that question.

Common Core

Common Core remains unpopular among our Iowa Republican readers who participated in this survey. Iowa adopted the Common Core Math and English language arts standards in 2010 aligning Iowa’s standards to them. In 2013 and 2014 when the standards were getting the most media attention our Republican survey participants in 2014 who were knowledgeable about the standards overwhelmingly rejected them with 92.9 percent opposing Common Core with only 4.2 percent supporting them. Among all Republican respondents, 83.4 percent opposed Common Core while 3.8 percent supported them.

That margin has shrunk, but it’s still clear that opposition to Common Core is quite high.

Among all Iowa Republican respondents to our survey, 59.6 percent said they opposed Common Core while only 10.6 percent said they supported them. 29.8 percent said they were unsure. In 2014 we didn’t see that amount of uncertainty. Two possible reasons would be the lack of coverage Common Core now gets, as well as, the fact most states do not call their math or ELA standards “Common Core.”

When we look at the survey data among those who say they are knowledgeable about the Common Core opposition goes up about 20 points while support goes up by less than four points.

If you know about Common Core, you have an opinion, and overwhelmingly Iowa Republican respondents do not like Common Core. 79.4 percent oppose Common Core while only 14.2 percent support the standards. Among respondents who have school-aged children, 77 percent oppose Common Core while only 14.8 percent support the standards.

Among conservatives who are knowledgeable about the standards, 84.2 percent opposed Common Core while only 11.9 percent supported them. Knowledgeable moderates split between supporting Common Core and opposing it.


Our readers are still are incredibly supportive of policies that promote educational liberty and reject top-down education reform efforts like Common Core.

Note: Our 2017 survey is not a scientific poll. Our straw poll was conducted online between August 9-August 16, 2017 and had 188 participants. Participants were limited to those who identified as Iowans who planned to vote in the upcoming Iowa Republican Primary on June 5, 2018. Participants were only allowed to take the survey once.

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