This week PDK/Gallup released the findings of their 46th annual Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. The nationwide poll, administered to 1,001 Americans, asked questions on important education policy issues such as school funding, teacher quality, standardized testing, and vouchers. The Texas Legislature will debate many of these issues when the legislative session starts this January.
When asked about the biggest problems facing their school, 32 percent of respondents cited lack of financial support. This compares to nine percent for both concern about educational standards and lack of discipline, and eight percent for difficulty securing good teachers. An emphasis on school funding held out as the biggest problem across political parties; 21 percent of Republicans, 45 percent of Democrats, and 33 percent of Independents see the lack of adequate resources as a major problem for our public schools.
Last legislative session, policy makers paid significant attention to the growing opposition to our state’s overreliance and overuse of standardized tests, resulting in a decrease in the number of State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests given. Not surprisingly, Americans in general are also not fans of the push toward using more standardized tests in our classrooms; 54 percent reported that standardized tests are not helpful for teachers. Pushing back on standardized testing is also a bipartisan effort; 52 percent of Republicans, 54 percent of Democrats, and 55 percent of Independents find standardized tests not helpful. Public school parents, whose children actually have to take these tests, had the greatest opposition to standardized testing, with 68 percent finding these tests unhelpful.
Vouchers, programs that provide some funding for students to attend private schools by diverting public dollars away from public schools, were contentiously debated last legislative session and ultimately defeated. Considering that vouchers often don’t pay the full price of tuition and that private schools don’t have to accept all students – often excluding children with special needs or discipline records – Americans are catching on that vouchers provide too little for too few. Overall, 63 percent of Americans oppose vouchers. This number holds true for public school parents and Independents. Democrats show the strongest opposition at 77 percent, while 48 percent of Republicans are opposed.
The biggest lesson from this poll is that Americans care deeply about public education, and there is significant common ground to advance policy solutions.
Check out the full poll results here.