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.