A new national poll found that voters believe that state legislatures and governors should protect education spending from the cuts necessary to reduce state budget deficits. The poll, released by the Public Education Network and Education Week on Feb. 24, found that respondents rank education and health care as the number one and two priorities in a list of programs that they believe should be saved from cuts. In an unpublished finding, the poll also showed that most voters believe the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) reforms should not overemphasize early education, but should focus on all grades K-12.
According to the poll, voters were well aware of the financial turmoil that states are facing. In fact, most people polled believe that their state budget is in deficit, and they are concerned about how this will impact future state spending and how budget cuts will affect them personally. Sixty percent of those polled were willing to pay more in taxes to improve public education. Support grows, particularly among Republicans, to 67 percent overall if the tax increase is targeted for education.
Respondents felt that most officeholders are not held accountable for their actions on education. They also believe that their mayor or county supervisor and their state legislator need to play a larger role in advocating for quality public education, especially in fighting for more federal dollars. However, they place the responsibility of funding the implementation of NCLB squarely on the federal government. The poll found that 42 percent of voters are less likely to vote for a U.S. Senator or Congressperson who voted against a measure to provide significant federal funds necessary to implement the NCLB. Unfortunately, only 56 percent of the respondents said they had seen, heard, or read about the law, despite its status as one of President Bush’s top priorities in the 2000 campaign and a main focus of his first year in office.
A majority of those polled said they believe that the best way to improve education is to improve teacher quality. They support the provision inNCLB that requires every middle and high school teacher to have a degree in the subject he or she teaches by 2005.
The full findings of the Public Education Network/Education Week poll are available at:http://www.publiceducation.org/pdf/2003ExtendedPollReport.pdf