While the public is deeply divided over some critical education issues, the vast majority of Americans continue to have confidence in their children’s teachers, according to the 2012 The Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup survey, The Public’s Attitudes Toward Public Education. They also believe the lack of education funding is the biggest problem facing education today and even say they would be willing to pay higher taxes to improve educational opportunities for students in the most challenged schools.
Phi Delta Kappa (PDK), a global association of education professionals, has conducted the poll in conjunction with Gallup since 1969. This year’s poll was based on conversations with 1002 respondents.
“People in this country still have an overwhelming trust and confidence in the men and women who teach in our public schools,” said National Education Association Vice President Lily Eskelsen. “I look at that 71 percent. I don’t know that any other profession could claim that 71 percent that the general public have trust in them and confidence in them.”
Eskelsen said the overall poll results reflect NEA’s positions and values around ensuring every student has an equitable and quality education. Through various initiatives, including NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign, the union and its affiliates have been engaging parents, policy makers and other key players to come up with solutions for students.
According to the survey, Americans are deeply concerned about growing inequalities in the education system. While 43 percent cited lack of funding as the biggest challenge facing schools, 97 percent of the public agreed that it is very or somewhat important to improve the nation’s urban schools. Furthermore, almost two-thirds of respondents (62 percent) said they would pay more taxes to provide funds to improve the quality of these schools.
“The public gets it that it costs money to run a public school” said Eskelsen. They know what kind of crisis we’ve been in. In the last 3-4 years, over 300,000 educators, teachers and support staff have been laid off. They understand that it costs money to keep people on the job and when we don’t have them class sizes go up.”
“Eighty-nine percent of the public says that they want education to have that focus on kids who live in the most challenging situations,” Eskelsen added. “And they agree that we have to close those achievement gaps which is much, much more than a standardized test score.”
Americans are more divided on the issue of vouchers, although 56 percent of those surveyed oppose the use of public funds to pay for private schools. On whether children of illegal immigrants should receive free public education and school lunches, only 41 percent said they were in favor. However, this marked a significant increase from the 2011 survey, which found only 28 percent expressing support.
On teacher preparation, 57 percent of Americans support more rigorous entrance requirements into college-based teacher preparation programs. Specifically, two-thirds believe requirements should be as rigorous as or more selective than engineering, business, pre-law, and medicine.
Responding to the survey, 2012 Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki commented: “Americans want teachers held to high standards from the moment we enter a preparation program to our last day in the classroom, and how they want us to improve how we prepare young people for the rigors of college and their careers. These are all good things. Just like teachers themselves, Americans want to see schools and the teaching profession elevated and strengthened.”