Ten Year Trends in Public Opinion from the Ed Next Polls offers education watchers a gold mine of data about what Americans think about public education and their schools. The article offers interesting findings on topics ranging from Common Core, testing, school choice and merit pay.
If you not inclined to read through 25 pages of texts and graphs, the authors offer a quick summary with the following paragraph.
….the demise of school reform has been greatly exaggerated. Public support remains as high as ever for federally mandated testing, charter schools, tax credits to support private school choice, merit pay for teachers and teacher tenure reform. However, backing for the Common Core State Standards and school vouchers fell to new lows in 2016. As in previous polls, Democrats are more supportive of Common Core than Republicans are, and we find polarization along party lines on several other issues. Surprisingly more Democrats than Republicans support vouchers targeted to low income students, tax credits, and vouchers for all families (universal vouchers).
Some of the article’s more interesting findings concern school spending and teacher pay.
According to poll results in 2016, 61 percent of the public favored an increase in per pupil expenditures. When respondents were told their district current spending level before the question was posed, only 45 percent of respondents favored an increase in expenditures. A similar effect took takes place when respondents were asked to estimate per pupil spending in their local school district. In 2016, when asked to estimate per pupil spending, the average was response from respondents was $7,020, a little more than 50 percent of the actual per pupil expenditure of $12,440.
With regard to the topic of teacher salaries, in 2016, when respondents were asked to estimate the average teacher salary in their state, their responses were on average, 30 percent lower than the average teacher salaries listed by the National Education Association. Similarly, when respondents were asked whether or not they believe teacher salaries should be increased, 65 percent of respondents favored a pay raise. When respondents were given information about average teacher salary before the question was posed, only 41 percent of respondents favored a pay hike for teachers.
While the public may care deeply about education, it appears most citizens lack knowledge of education spending and teacher salaries.
For additional information on Ed Next’s 10 Year Poll results article and access to the poll’s interactive charts see here.
For additional information on Education Polling in Norrth Carolina, see pages 152-153 of Learning the Lesson: 1985-2015, A Guide to North Carolina Education Policy