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School choice, specifically in the form of Educational Savings Accounts, is taking center stage inside the Iowa Capitol as negotiations on key policy items continue with the end of this year’s legislative session in sight. ITR Foundation has detailed the need for school choice in our state from various perspectives. Since ESAs are on the top of so many minds, we wanted to do a deeper dive into the most recent ITR Foundation Poll to determine how Iowans really feel about the issue when asked:
Do you support or oppose a plan to allow parents to spend their child’s share of state educational funding at the public or private school of their choice?
The topline results show the issue has a net favorability among Iowa voters of almost 12%, with 47.2% of poll respondents supporting ESAs, and 35.4% of respondents opposing them.
Among Republican voters, there is overwhelming support for ESAs, with a net favorability of over 58%. 69.7% of registered Republicans support ESAs, while only 11.1% oppose them. Given the divides that exist in our country, which have been exposed over the past two years, perhaps that support is not surprising.
What may be surprising is where, geographically speaking, support for ESAs is the strongest. There is a belief that rural Iowans are not interested in school choice, but the data doesn’t bear that out. The strongest net favorability for ESAs (+21.8%) was from Iowans in rural communities.
While we are poking holes in common misperceptions, here’s another data point that may be surprising to some: support for ESAs was strongest among those making less than $50,000 per year (+25.4%). This gets right to the heart of the matter. Iowans believe having educational options shouldn’t be limited to those with higher incomes, and private schools need to be within reach for all students.
*This probabilistic survey was conducted by Cygnal from February 20-22, 2022, with 610 likely general election voters. The full poll is available at ITRFoundation.org.