Expect Education To Be Big Issue In 2016 Race

Jul 27, 2015 by

Senator Bernie Sanders

Maureen Sullivan –

What’s the most important issue facing the country? As usual, it’s the economy and jobs, according to the latest annual survey from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. But education is the second issue on the minds of Americans who have been bombarded over the past year with news about Common Core curriculum standards, soaring student debt and standardized test opt-out movements in schools across the country.

The foundation’s recent Schooling in America Survey found that 17% of respondents said education was the most important issue facing the nation. That compares with 31% who put economy and jobs at the top of their list of concerns. Healthcare was the most important issue for 13% of those surveyed.

Education is certainly on the mind of the 21 candidates who have declared their intentions in the Democrat and Republican presidential primary races. Most of them have made a point of mentioning education issues in their launch speeches and on the stump. Democrat front-runner Hillary Clinton has already been endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders advocates for free college tuition. Billionaire Donald Trump assailed former Florida Governor Jeb Bush for his support of Common Core. “How the hell can you vote for this guy?” Trump asked the crowd at his launch last month.

Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a socialist, called for making all public colleges and universities tuition-free at a town hall meeting at Valley High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, on July 24, 2015 (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The overwhelming majority of Americans–85%–send their children to public schools but many wish they could put them in private or parochial schools, according to the survey. The first choice for 41% of respondents was private school, though only 8% of Americans actually send their children to that type of school. The survey showed that 36% would make a regular public school their first choice, 12% would pick a public charter school and 9% would homeschool. Currently about 5% of pupils go to a charter school and under 3% are homeschooled.

Some other findings:

  • Six out of 10 respondents (60%) said K-12 education is on the “wrong track.” Another 32% said “right direction.” Last year’s survey results were 58% to 33%.
  • More than three-quarters of Americans (77%) believe the federal government if doing a poor or fair job on education. Only 20% rated the feds as good or excellent.
  • 50% support Common Core and 40% oppose the state standards for curriculum in math and reading.
  • 21% of Democrats are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports Common Core while 15% of Republicans are more likely to support the Common Core candidate.
  • 60% of respondents favor tax-credit scholarship programs.
  • 61% favor vouchers.
  • 53% favor charter schools, down from 61% last year. Opposition to charters remains about the same at 27%.
  • 62% favor the idea of an education savings account. 56% of respondents disagreed with the idea of means testing for ESAs.

Nevada is the most recent state to approve ESAs, making 453,000 students eligible for an account next year. The foundation says more than 352,000 students used vouchers, tax-credit scholarships and ESAs in the 2014-15 school year and that number is going to grow significantly because Nevada and eight other states have adopted or increased those programs so far this year.

“ESAs are the new go-to program that allows dollars to follow children to the educational setting of their choice,” said Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the the legacy foundation of Nobel economist Milton Friedman, in a statement.

Braun Research, which conducted the poll on behalf of the foundation, interviewed 1,002 adults by live telephone calls in late April and early May. The margin of error is ± 3.1 percentage points.

Source: Expect Education To Be Big Issue In 2016 Presidential Campaign, Survey Shows

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