Independents lean right on education

Just one-third of independents report that President Obama has done an “excellent” or “good” job of handling education issues, reports the new EdNext-PEPG survey. On the role of teachers unions and support for school spending, “the views of independents hew closer to those of Republicans than of Democrats.”

Moreover, independents are more supportive than members of either party of expanding private school choice for disadvantaged students, the centerpiece of Governor Romney’s proposals for K–12 education reform.

Overall, however, 52 percent of independents say they lean Democratic, while just 40 percent lean Republican.

Seventy-one percent of Republicans report that the teachers unions have a generally negative effect on schools, as compared to just 29 percent of Democrats. Though independents come down in between, a majority of them (56 percent) agree with Republicans that unions have a negative effect.

Hispanics are more likely than whites or blacks to give high grades to public schools, the survey found.

While annual per-pupil expenditures run around $12,500, Hispanics, on average, estimate their cost at less than $5,000. Whites and African Americans estimate the costs to be more than $7,000.

The same goes for teacher salaries, which average about $56,000 a year. On average, Hispanics think teachers are paid little more than $25,000 a year; blacks, on average, think they are paid around $30,000 a year; and whites estimate salaries at $35,000.

All groups — but especially Hispanics — strongly support “proposals to condition teacher tenure on their students’ making adequate progress on state tests.”  Overall, the public backs using principals’ observations and students’ test-score improvement to evaluate teachers. 

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  1. Well, this is complicated. I view myself as way to the left of Obama on education issues, and I don’t think he’s doing a good job on education. But based on this commentary, I “lean right,” correct? How does that make sense?

    Also, Obama himself is way to the left of his own administration’s policy on education issues, based on his occasional blurts criticizing standardized testing; blaming, shaming or rewarding teachers based on test scores; narrowed curriculum; relentless test prep and other fads of the so-called education “reform” movement that his own Dept. of Ed promotes.

    Regarding polls showing that the citizenry supports judging teachers based on students’ test scores: There are a lot of areas where I think polls are not necessarily valuable gauges of public opinion, and I think this is likely to one of them. If you asked a second question — “Did you know that test scores correlate closely with wealth or poverty?” — and then repeated the first question, do you think the response might change? What if you added, “Do you think students ever choose not to take tests seriously?” (And more questions could be added that would demonstrate the complexities of the topic.) That is, when a question is sprung on someone who hasn’t followed the issue or considered the complexities, does the response really provide valuable information?

    • Of course Obama’s to the right of you on education. He’s got a dangerous constituency to worry about and you don’t. Or at least your dismissive of the danger. Obama can certainly be as irresponsible as you but for him the consequences are real and not as easily-ignored as for you.

      As for Obama being to the left of his own administration, as self-evidently idiotic as that assertion is, the evidence points the other way. After all RTTT, not exactly the union’s pal, is a product of the Obama administration.

      Speaking of pals, there’s Arne Duncan the Secretary of Education who serves at the pleasure of the president. Evidently Obama finds something pleasurable in Duncan’s employment since he’s kept him on despite public calls by the teacher’s unions to give Duncan the boot.

      And about teacher accountability, that bird’s flown. You’ll still find people here and there who buy into your house-of-cards argument against teacher accountability the direction the politics of education has taken the last twenty or so years makes it clear that you’ve lost the public.

      The presumed saintliness of teachers has been punctured by the failure of public education as a whole and by actions like the Chicago teacher’s strike. The public is clearly less and less willing to take the word of the experts that they’re doing a good job and that attitude shows up not only at the polls but also in the legislation.

  2. Roger Sweeny says:

    Are you saying that the president says one thing and does another? Are you suggesting that he is another phony politician? Welcome, Caroline, to the dark side.

    Did you know that test scores correlate closely with wealth or poverty?

    Yes I did. I even know something much scarier. Success in school, period, correlates closely with wealth or poverty. This suggests that if you believe in “social justice,” you should be working hard to diminish the importance of schooling in American life.