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.”
What We’re Working On
Budget & Tax
Policy Brief: Stopping the National Debt Spiral: A Better Rule for Solving the Federal Fiscal Crisis
Over the past few decades, the United States has emerged as one of the world’s most fiscally irresponsible nations. The national debt now exceeds $20 trillion. With annual deficits in excess of $500 billion, debt continues to grow at an unsustainable rate and now rivals the debt-to-gross-domestic-product ratio held by Brazil, Greece, and Portugal, all of which are at risk of defaulting on their obligations.
Although the nation’s debt crisis has reached troubling heights, it can still be resolved by adopting a “national debt brake” similar to the one that has been in place in Switzerland for several decades. In this new Heartland Policy Brief, professor John Merrifield and Barry Poulson propose the creation of a debt brake that would halt debt accumulation and allow the United States to avoid the economic instability that has occurred in other insolvent countries. “Fiscal discipline is achieved with a modest 1 percent reduction in the rate of growth in spending over this period [1993 to 2013],” wrote Merrifield and Poulson. “The government would be able to meet the need for emergency spending, including military spending, while still restraining discretionary spending overall. A 1 percent reduction in the rate of growth in general fund spending is a small price to pay for a sustainable long-term fiscal policy.” Read more
Research & Commentary: Wisconsin Should Adopt Education Savings Accounts
In this Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson discusses the possibility Wisconsin Republicans may introduce an education savings account bill during the 2017 legislative session. Benson argues this legislation would be great for Wisconsin children and in-step with Wisconsin’s reputation as a leader in the education-reform movement. “The goal of the Wisconsin Legislature should be to allow every parent to choose, require every school to compete, and give every child an opportunity to attend a quality school,” Benson wrote. Read more
Energy & Environment
Nevada Supreme Court Strikes Down Solar Referendum
H. Sterling Burnett, managing editor of Environment & Climate News, details in this article how the Nevada Supreme Court unanimously struck down a November ballot referendum that would have restored net-metering rates favoring the rooftop solar industry and its customers. “In striking down the referendum, the court … said the ‘description of effect’ required to explain the effect of the measure to those signing the petition was ‘not only inaccurate and misleading, but also argumentative,'” wrote Burnett. Burnett also reports the Nevada Supreme Court’s decision prevents Nevada voters from having the chance to decide whether to overturn a 2015 law that allowed the Nevada Public Utilities Commission to impose higher charges for rooftop solar customers. Read more
Research & Commentary: Florida Should Allow Dental Therapists
A growing number of states and tribal communities are allowing dentists to employ dental therapists to help meet the growing demand for routine dental care. Unfortunately, Florida is one of the many states that have not reformed their dental licensing laws to allow for dental therapists. In this Research & Commentary, State Government Relations Manager Logan Elizabeth Pike examines the potential effect dental therapists would have in the State of Florida and encourages Florida lawmakers to reform their licensing laws. “Florida lawmakers should work to close gaps in dental-care access by reforming dental licensing laws to allow for dental therapists and ensure patients get preventive and restorative treatment when and where they need it,” wrote Pike. Read more
From Our Free-Market Friends
Certificate-of-Need Laws and Hospital Quality
The Mercatus Center at George Mason University recently released a study on certificate-of-need (CON) laws and hospital quality. Mercatus Center Scholar Thomas Stratmann and David Wille determine in their study patients living in states with CON laws receive significantly lower quality health care than those living in states without CON laws.
Proponents of CON laws claim they help to improve hospital quality by reducing health care supply, which allegedly allows practitioners to perform the same procedures and serve patients with the same kind of conditions more often. However, Stratmann and Wille’s research finds no evidence to support this claim. On the contrary, the data used in the study show CON laws are associated with higher death rates, do not raise the quality of care, and lower the quality of medical services. Read more