New Florida survey shows strong support for school choice

Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education conducted the survey Jan. 23-25.
Thousands of Floridians rally in Tallahassee for school choice in 2010. [Step Up For Students]
Thousands of Floridians rally in Tallahassee for school choice in 2010. [Step Up For Students]
Published Feb. 22, 2019|Updated Feb. 22, 2019

With legislative proposals emerging to expand school choice for Floridians, a new survey released Friday indicates that such a push is exactly what many of the state’s residents want. The question remains whether there’s money enough to support the efforts while maintaining a sound public education system.

The poll of 800, conducted for the pro-choice Foundation for Excellence in Education, showed 78 percent of respondents favored “giving parents the opportunity to choose where they send their child to school rather than assigning children to schools based on zip code.”

It also showed 72 percent supported the idea of education savings accounts, described as a “flexible education scholarship that parents can use to pay for their child’s education” instead of sending the student’s share directly to a public school.

The poll had similar strong responses for backing voluntary prekindergarten vouchers, tax credit scholarships for low- to middle-income children and Gardiner scholarships for children with disabilities — programs that already exist in Florida.

Among those who opposed education savings accounts, the most mentioned reason was a reduction of students and funding to the public school system. Among all respondents, 40 percent said a lack of funding is the biggest obstacle to improving Florida’s K-12 system.

At the same time, 37 percent said the one-size-fits-all approach is a significant obstacle.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, who created the foundation, has advocated for two decades the need to expand school choice as a catalyst to improve student academic achievement. It has proven a controversial effort, with several court challenges aimed at stopping such ideas as vouchers and education savings accounts.

He expressed optimism that Gov. Ron DeSantis will find success with the Legislature in driving the customized education system to the next level. DeSantis has backed the idea of state-funded scholarships, which Bush tried to establish while governor, and which has been a key focus of his foundation over time.

“Every child is different. The needs of every parent are different,” Bush told the Gradebook. “Philosophically, he’s right on target.”

The foundation’s survey results could help inform the debate to come in the next two months. See the full list of questions and responses, as well as the cross-tabbed results, for more details.