Support for teachers over unionsPoll: Most voters would pay higher taxes
For all the talk of teacher bashing, a big majority of Californians think highly of public school teachers; most believe they’re underpaid. But they also have issues with their union, a new poll has found.
According to a survey of 1,500 Californians by the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll, 52 percent said that teachers unions are too powerful, while 36 percent disagreed; 45 percent said unions are resistant to reforms that would improve schools, while 37 percent disagreed. Parents in the survey were the most critical of the unions. (For the full results, go here. )
But at the same time, by a 45-40 split, respondents agreed with the statement “Unions help teachers succeed in a very tough profession,” and in this case, parents, with first-hand knowledge, agreed even more: 49 percent to 37 percent.
Sixty-two percent agreed with the statements that teachers unions had too much influence over policy, compared with 54 percent who said that for-profit organizations cared more about making money than improving education, including those that operate charter schools.
Student test scores for evaluations
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan generally will be pleased and the California Teachers Association disconcerted with the poll results. Nearly seven in 10 (69 percent) of those surveyed say that teachers’ evaluations should be made public; those surveyed say that students’ progress and performance on standardized tests scores should count, on average, for almost half of teachers’ evaluations, with classroom observations and parent feedback included as well.
Giving test scores that much weight puts Californians in fundamental agreement with the Obama administration, which has made using test scores as a significant factor a condition in the Race to the Top competition and the latest waiver for the No Child Left Behind law. The California Teachers Assn. doesn’t want scores used at all, arguing that the tests weren’t designed for evaluating teachers and are fraught with errors. What respondents overwhelmingly don’t like is the status quo of basing pay on seniority (10 percent agreed with that) or advanced degrees and training (only 13 percent agreed).
Other finds in the poll:
- Years of budget cuts for schools have gotten to the point where a solid majority of Californians would be willing to pay more school taxes, even if that meant an increase in their own taxes: 64 percent were strongly or somewhat in favor; the percentage didn’t change significantly for those who were told that California ranks 42nd in the nation in per student funding;
- As for factors that would improve the quality of public schools, the poll found greatest support for reducing class size and increasing parental involvement; two-thirds would support putting more money into economically and socially disadvantaged schools, a percentage that drops to 57 percent when told that doing so would involve taking money from wealthier schools. (Update: Respondents also give high marks to providing aspiring teachers with a one-year apprenticeship under a high-performing teacher.)
- 52 percent of the 308 parents in the survey said they’d consider enrolling their children in a charter school, compared with 38 percent who said they wouldn’t.