PDK poll: Pull the trigger, balance the budget

Seventy percent of Americans think parents should be able to take over low-performing schools, reports the annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll. I was surprised to see “parent trigger” support running so high.

Also surprising:  Balancing the budget is more important than improving education quality said 60 percent,  even though most said schools need more funding.

In 1996, 25 percent chose balancing the budget and 64 percent chose improving education writes Rick Hess. “This year, independents chose balancing the budget by a 2-to-1 margin. This suggests just how tough the road ahead may be for those clamoring for new federal edu-dollars.”

President Obama’s education support is slipping, Hess adds.

Thirty-seven percent of respondents gave him an A or a B on education, while 34% gave him a D or an F. This is down dramatically from ’09, when the comparable figures were 45% and 21%. Independents were more negative than positive, while Republicans were hugely critical–with just 7% giving him an A or a B, and 61% a D or an F. (So much for the notion that the President’s education efforts enjoy bipartisan support.) In the horse race on education, Obama leads Romney by a modest margin, 49-44; this is dramatically smaller than the 17-point advantage Obama enjoyed on John McCain in ’08.

As in past polls, Americans gave higher grades to their local schools — almost half gave an A or B — than to the nation’s schools, which earned a C from nearly  half.

About Joanne


  1. Florida resident says:

    Low-performing schools are mostly due to low-performing students, not due to building quality, or team of bad teachers. At the locality of low-performing school, the body of parents is probably of low qualitty in the first place. See

    “Bad Students, not Bad Schools” by Robert Weissberg,


    With respectful greetings to Joanne Jacobs,
    Florida resident.

    • Well if the problem’s low-performing students wo issue from low-quality parents the solution’s obvious – fire the students that don’t perform well.

      What’s kind of sad is so many people are willing to espouse your views without a second’s consideration so desperate are they to hang onto the once and future district system.

  2. Florida resident says:

    This is in response to allen’s comment
    [if the problem’s low-performing students wo issue from low-quality parents the solution’s obvious … ]

    Imagine yourself around the year 1700. Alchemist is a much respected occupation: for example, great physicist and mathematician Isaac Newton was one of them.

    Their assumption was that by proper chemical and physical processes, including mixing, boiling, melting, drying etc., one can transform lead, or iron, or tin, or combination of other substances, into gold, or silver, or platinum.

    Some of these dreams eventually came true: nowadays (since circa 1945) one can transform graphite (one form of pure carbon) into diamond (other form of pure carbon) by applying very high pressure and temperature. One can grow artificial sapphires, rubies and other precious stones, of even better quality than the natural ones. There were achievements like growth of ultra-ultra-clean germanium and silicon crystals, unheard of in the natural world; they allowed for invention and mass production of transistors, micro-lasers and computers. Artificial (genetically modified) plants like hybrid types of corn are other remarkable achievements. Antibiotics and vaccines, and many, many other things are around us nowadays.

    But some of the problems are nowadays considered as having NO SOLUTION (repeat, NO SOLUTION).
    Transformation of tin or lead into gold is one of them [I do not mean radioactive processes, which cost billions times more than mining for natural gold, silver, etc.].
    Producing a triangle with the straight sides of the lengths 10, 5, and 3, is still impossible and will not be possible in any future.
    Moving objects with the velocity faster than speed of light in vacuum is another problem, which has no (repeat, NO) solution.

    I want you to think for a moment about the problem, which apparently most of you want to be solved: take _all_ (repeat, _all_) kids, and teach _all_ of them to the level of University graduates; at least to the level of proficient High School graduates. I will not provide the names of federal, or state, or private programs with such a purpose; you know them yourselves.
    You may want to ask yourself: DOES THIS PROBLEM HAVE A SOLUTION ?
    I will not give the answer; people much smarter then I am, tried to discuss this.
    See e.g.


    the new (and short) book “Real Education” by Ch. Murray,


    Once more, ask yourself, DOES THIS PROBLEM HAVE A SOLUTION ?

    Respectfully yours, Florida resident.

    • Putting an unsupported assertion in ALL CAPS does nothing to increase its credibility and in answer to your question, of course there’s a solution. Not to the strawman goal proponents of the current system like to set up as an impossibility but to the more realistic goal of an education system that works about as well as can be expected.

      The problem, dear Florida resident, lies not in our kids but in our idiotic presumptions. And the people who do right well due to those idiotic presumptions. They’re part of the problem as well. And the folks who, for reasons that would do them no credit were those reasons closely examined, insist upon those idiotic presumptions.

      • Florida resident says:

        Dear “allen” !
        You made me recall one particular Nobel Prize winner (dead now, whom I happen to have known personally.) Here is what he commented in reference to some other scientist:
        ” Why do you think I offended him ? I did not say he is an idiot. I said only that his particular publication is idiotic.”

        I hope we both are tolerant to each other’s opinions, which are apparently different. See the article “Reducing Hate by Restoring Tolerance”
        by Robert Weissberg,


        Your truly, Florida resident.

        • One of the subjects of this post is support for parental trigger law and I’m coming to think that more clearly then any other policy idea parental trigger represents not just a particular dissatisfaction with the public education system but a rising level of dissatisfaction with the handing over of responsibilities to purported experts. And, I have a feeling parental trigger’s going to be the new frontier in the education reform.

          More then any other policy idea I’ve seen parental trigger strikes wholesale at the sovereignty of the school district and its ability to ignore the responsibilities for which it exists. Not only does parental trigger individually empower parents but it represents a large-scale danger to a district removing not just the occasional student here and there but a whole school from the grasp of the district.

          It’s organizational dismemberment and if the idea gains much currency in the political realm you could see the large, largely failure-ridden, urban school districts rent apart.

          Makes me smile just thinking about it.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            Perhaps you should hold that smile. The devil is in the details. If a trigger means that the present management of the school is traded out for a different group of insiders, and if there is now a parental “advisory board” which has to rely on those insiders for information and possible courses of action, there’s probably not going to be much substantive change.

          • I think I’ll continue smiling since my hypothesis is that the district’s the primary cause of the shortcomings of public education. Anything then that erodes the district’s grip on the public perception of what public education ought to consist of is a good thing in my view.

            Charters have eroded that perception as have vouchers but parental trigger’s a much more dangerous policy if you’re a proponent of the educational status quo. It doesn’t simply pry a student loose from the grasp of the district it tears off a chunk of the district introducing the idea that districts are divisible when they fail to perform their function rather then simply to be tolerated there being no alternative.

            The durability of the district isn’t based on performance but on political inertia and parental trigger helps deprive proponents of the school district of the benefits of that inertia.

            So I’ll continue to smile.

  3. It is unclear to me that “federal edu-dollars” have been of net benefit to public education. Perhaps those who preferred balancing the budget over additional amounts of that funding have come to the conclusion that additional federal funding of education has no relationship with successfully educating students.

    • Florida resident says:

      Dear “Annoying Old Guy” !
      Do you know the notion of “diminishing marginal returns” ?
      This may (and may not) be the case about extra spending on education.
      I do not claim to know one way or the other.
      But how about you: do you know the answer ?

      Respectfully yours, F.r.

      • I know about diminishing marginal returns. I don’t know if that is the case with regard to education. But people who say lack of additional “federal edu-dollars” is a problem are implicitly claiming to know. I object to people presuming, a priori, that the answer is in fact “yes with no diminishing returns” as people cited in the original article do.