February 24, 2024

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Survey: Bipartisan majorities in JOCO want education savings accounts

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In our current political climate, it seems nearly impossible to get Democrats and Republicans to agree on what day it is, but an overwhelming bipartisan majority of Johnson Countians support education savings accounts to provide alternative opportunities for K-12 students.

Education savings accounts are publicly funded, government-authorized accounts that parents can use for a variety of expenses, such as school tuition, tutoring, online education programs, therapies for students with special needs, textbooks, or other instructional materials. The accounts are funding mechanisms for school choice initiatives, providing alternatives to public school education.

83% of Republican voters in Johnson County support education savings accounts for parents who believe their child’s academic needs are not being met by the public school system, along with 69% of Independents and 60% of Democrats. The poll indicates the frustration voters and parents across the political spectrum share as public school spending and student achievement continue in opposite directions. Johnson County schools spent an average of $16,214 per student last year, yet 33% of high school students are below grade level in math, and 24% can’t read at grade level, according to state assessment results.

The survey shows strong bi-partisan support for education savings accounts.

The Johnson County results are similar to statewide numbers from the same poll.  For example, there is 61% support among self-identified liberals statewide and 60% in Johnson County.

The poll was conducted by SurveyUSA on behalf of Kansas Policy Institute (KPI), the parent company of The Sentinel.

Education savings accounts in other states

13 states currently provide education savings accounts to students and families:

An ESA bill in Kansas last year passed the House but failed in the Senate.

Governor Laura Kelly has opposed School Choice initiatives in the past despite famously sending her children to a private school.  She says education savings accounts are not fair to public schools, underscoring her support of government systems over students’ needs.

The poll also questioned respondents on their opinions on school officials not following state law on Building Needs Assessments. Kansas state law requires school boards to conduct needs assessments in each school as part of their budget process each year to identify barriers preventing kids from being proficient. Many times, districts do not allow school board members to conduct the process as required by state law. In Johnson County, 78% want school districts to face consequences if their needs assessment process is not completed in accordance with the law.  Currently, there are no consequences for school districts that don’t comply with state laws.

KPI President James Franko says the Johnson County poll results are encouraging for the School Choice movement:

“Parents in Johnson County and across the state just want to know that their children will be prepared to succeed in the future. We have school choice in Kansas for the families who can afford it. It’s long past time for the money each family pays in taxes to follow their child to the right educational environment. For most, that will be a high-performing public school. For others, it will be something different that gives them a fighting chance to flourish.

 “Student success must be the focus. Too many of our students walk away from the system without the math and reading skills required to pursue their dreams. We see the policy solutions that are working in other states.”

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