PDK Poll: Teacher recruitment, pre-K among parents’ top policy priorities

Dive Brief:

  • The 52nd annual Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, released Tuesday, finds six out of 10 respondents calling public education “extremely” or “very” important in their 2020 election decisions, and 53% saying they disapprove of President Donald Trump’s education policy performance. 
  • Among priorities parent respondents would like the federal government to focus on were supporting efforts to recruit and retain teachers (86%), college affordability (80%), pre-K program availability (68%) and protecting students from in-school discrimination (65%).
  • Many of the issues had stark contrasts along partisan lines, with about half of Republican or conservative respondents wanting more focus on charter expansion, compared to 29% of Democrat and 26% of liberal respondents. On Trump’s education performance, 86% of Republicans approved, compared to around 43% of independents and 11% of Democrats.

Dive Insight:

This year’s poll provided responses from 1,060 adults, who were surveyed on topics including political attitudes and priorities, testing, problems facing public schools, charter schools and vouchers, and diversity. It’s also worth noting that this year’s results were gathered prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide demonstrations that followed the police-involved deaths of George Floyd and other unarmed Black Americans.

On testing, respondents overall said it would be appropriate to use results to determine students’ eligibility for enrollment in special programs (83%), to determine grade promotion or graduation (77%), as an important factor in teacher evaluations (64%), or as the main factor in determining school comparisons (61%).

Just 45%, however, felt test results should be used as an important factor in determining state funding to districts. Overall, 41% of respondents overall also said too much emphasis is placed on testing, compared to 21% who felt otherwise.

“Not surprisingly, funding weighs heavily on the minds of parents as we find that this issue is their No. 1 priority in the category of problems facing public schools,” said Dan Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, in a statement. “This matter is only going to escalate since we now know that $200 billion is needed for our schools to meet their needs during the pandemic.”

Domenech was disheartened, however, to see that only a narrow majority of parent respondents (51%) would be in opposition to special programs that would reduce racial and ethnic diversity in a school, and 52% in opposition to special programs that reduce economic diversity. Those numbers were roughly the same for respondents overall.

Views on charters and private school voucher programs were a bit more of a mixed bag. While only 38% of all respondents favored charter expansion, 53% were in support of private school vouchers. As voucher programs have grown in recent years, so to have concerns from the Government Accountability Office, think tanks and other organizations in regard to the accountability of these programs to students’ civil and other rights.

Some private school operators have also expressed concern about voucher programs, recognizing that accepting federal money is a potential road to greater oversight.

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