EdChoice Survey Finds Elected Officials Support School Choice

Published September 29, 2016

EdChoice, formally the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, recently published the results of a national survey it conducted of nearly 350 state lawmakers. The survey, titled “Surveying State Legislators,” examines lawmakers’ views on K–12 education, focusing primarily on school choice policy issues. The survey’s creators say it’s the first poll conducted solely by telephone in the past 15 years that deals with these topic areas.

The survey found state legislators view the direction of K–12 education more positively than negatively, but the findings also suggest there are significant differences between various legislator demographic groups. For instance, “Male legislators (53%) are significantly more positive about K–12 education in their home states than female legislators (39%) … [and] senior legislators (55%) are much more likely to be positive than young legislators (43%).”

The survey of elected officials shows 43 percent of state legislators believe K–12 education is on the wrong track in their states; 49 percent say education is on the right track.  

EdChoice also conducts a national survey of the general public each year to measure support for a range of K–12 education reforms. Its 2015 survey found 60 percent of Americans think K–12 education is heading in the wrong direction, while only 32 percent think it’s on the right track, which shows legislators have a more favorable view of K­–12 education than the public does.

Education savings accounts (ESA) are one of the most important policy issues featured in the EdChoice survey, which found “state legislators were twice as likely to say they favored ESA’s than opposed them (61% favor vs. 30% oppose).” Party affiliation appears to be one of the most important factors for predicting legislators’ support for ESAs. According to the survey data, “Republicans (82%) were much more likely to support ESAs compared with Democrats (23%).” Interestingly, age also appears to be important: “[Y]oung legislators (69%) [were] more likely to say they support ESAs than senior legislators (57%).”

In a recent Heartland In the Tank podcast, Government Relations Director John Nothdurft and Graphic Designer/In the Tank host Donald Kendal discuss education reform, highlighting the “Surveying State Legislators” report as the “PolicyBot featured work of the week.” Nothdurft and Kendal examine the purported views of state legislators on K–12 education issues and choice-based policies, according to the survey results, and provide listeners with important information about school choice in their trademark casual style.

In a new Heartland Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson examines the importance and potential benefits associated with ESAs. “ESAs give parents the option to use state education funds that would have otherwise gone toward sending their children to a traditional public school,” wrote Benson. “ESA funds can be used to help pay for tuition and fees at a private school or to purchase textbooks, online education programs, or private tutoring services.”

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