INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A recent 2015 Schooling in America Survey is revealing some interesting trends in education, particularly growing support for education savings accounts taking root in several states.
The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice teamed with Braun Research, Inc. to survey the public about their perceptions and opinions on education in America, and unveiled the results at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. this week.
The findings showed growing support among the public for education savings accounts currently in place in Nevada, Florida, Mississippi, Arizona and Tennessee that allow families to “receive a portion or all of their education dollars in an account that can be used for expenses including classroom materials, tutoring, special education therapy, and even private school tuition,” according to a Friedman Foundation statement.
Last year, about 56 percent of respondents said they support ESAs, with 28 percent opposing, and those figures shifted significantly in this year’s survey to 62 percent in support and 28 percent opposed.
“A split sample experiment in the follow-up question reveals Americans are inclined toward universal access to ESAs rather than means-tested eligibility based solely on financial need,” according to the survey.
Interestingly, school vouchers that allow students to attend private schools – the schools most in the survey said they’d prefer to send their children to – sagged some since last year, down slightly from 63 percent in favor in 2014 to 61 percent this year.
Bookings Institute senior fellow Matthew Chingos said the results highlight “something of a political conundrum” because despite the public support for more school options, school choice initiatives often face an uphill political battle, Inside Sources reports.
“Rebranding different things clearly can help,” Chingos said. “Vouchers have a troubled history in a lot of ways, but if you can take what’s basically a voucher program and rebrand it as an education savings account or as a tax credit scholarship program, you can get the same thing but in a much more politically palatable way.”
Other interesting findings in the survey seem to revolve around the federal government’s involvement in education.
A total of 77 percent of respondents rated the federal government’s performance in K-12 education as “fair” or “poor.”
“That prevailing negative attitude cuts across all demographics,” according to the 2015 survey.
Some of that negative attitude is undoubtedly tied to Common Core standards pushed on states by the Obama Administration through the president’s Race to the Top education initiative, which gave states points toward additional funding if they adopted the national standards.
About half of respondents said they supported Common Core, while 40 percent opposed, but the intensity of those who don’t like Common Core outweighs the enthusiasm of those who favor the standards.
“Net intensity goes in the negative direction (19% strongly favor vs. 24% strongly oppose),” according to the survey.
Other trends in the survey were fairly predictable.
“ … (Forty) percent of Americans believe schools spend too much time on standardized tests, including 47 percent of parents,” Inside Sources reports. “Six out of every 10 citizens in the U.S. thinks K-12 education in on the wrong track …”
The survey’s “1,002 telephone interviews were completed from April 22 to May 12, 2015, by means of both landline and cell phone. A randomly selected and statistically representative national sample of American adults responded to more than 25 substantive items in live phone interviews,” according to the report.