Stakeholders involved in K-12 education plan to vote for Barack Obama in the Nov. 6 presidential election, 53 percent to 42 percent, according to an informal poll of eSchool News readers.
But among those involved in private K-12 schools, the gap between Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, is somewhat smaller: 51 percent to 45 percent.
More than 1,000 readers responded to a five-question online survey in August and September. The results of the survey, while unscientific, provide a snapshot of how those involved in K-12 education view the presidential election.
Not surprisingly, the economy was the issue most important to readers this fall, with 64 percent of K-12 respondents indicating the economy as their first choice. Education was next, with 18 percent of K-12 respondents saying it was the most important campaign issue and 31 percent saying it was the second most important issue. Health care was the third most important issue among readers.
“We cannot have a government where the wealthiest determine rule and law and where politicians owe their allegiance to the wealthy, because they subsidize their campaigns,” wrote one Obama supporter. “There must be a strong middle class, and the focus must be on all of the people of this country, not the wealthiest.”
“Obama has had his time and failed miserably,” wrote a Romney supporter. “If our country is to be fiscally sound and respected in the world, a change in leadership is crucial.”
With many schools having suffered through several years of budget cuts, it’s also not a surprise that funding was the most important education-related issue to readers involved in K-12 schools: 38 percent gave this as their first choice, and 64 percent of readers chose funding as one of their top three education issues.
Revising No Child Left Behind was the next most important education issue to K-12 survey respondents, followed by Common Core standards and testing. How teachers are evaluated—a hot-button issue nationwide, and a key reason that Chicago teachers walked off the job earlier this month—was the fourth most important education issue in this election, with more than a third of respondents naming it as one of their top three education issues.
About 14 percent of the K-12 survey respondents said they work in private schools. Interestingly, this group put health care above education in terms of importance, and they ranked school choice as their No. 1 education-related issue.
When viewed as a subset of respondents, teachers preferred Obama as well—but by a slightly smaller margin than K-12 respondents overall: 51 percent of teachers said they were voting for Obama, while 43 percent of teachers said they would vote for Romney.
Many of the president’s policy moves during his first term didn’t sit well with educators who resent the amount of testing that goes on in schools today—and the narrowing of the curriculum that has resulted. That could explain why a slightly smaller percentage of teachers favored Obama over Romney than K-12 stakeholders in general.
“Testing is overrated, doesn’t take into account poverty, and is not reflective of good or bad teaching,” said one teacher who plans to vote for Obama. “Both candidates have bad education plans; this is the lesser of two evils.”
A teacher in Ohio—where Republican Gov. John Kasich last year signed a bill that curbed the rights of teachers and other public employees to bargain collectively—said that experience was sobering.
“I’ve seen how the Republican Party treats educators,” this reader wrote. “I’ll vote Democrat from now on.”
A sampling of readers’ comments
“I believe that the Republicans eventually want to do away with all public education and privatize the whole system. I don’t believe that this is a direction we should be going.”
“I vehemently oppose for-profit schooling and vouchers, as they sap funding from the public schools that are already strapped financially.”
“I’m not thrilled with Obama’s approach to education, and I think his ill-considered ‘reforms’ of K-12 are bad for higher-ed as well. But he is better than the alternative on education.”
“Education is vital to our growth as a country, and should not be cut. Romney is more inclined to cut education than to tax the wealthy.”
“I don’t think it is realistic to expect Obama to fix the economy in just four years. Romney’s plans for health care and education appear to put the burden more on the middle class, and I don’t see how that is beneficial to our future students and citizens of this country.”
“Obama is no better than the Republicans on education, but he is far superior on most other issues that matter.”
“We need someone with actual business experience to improve our economy.”
“Considering the Democrats’ strong alliance politically/financially with the teachers unions, there will be no implementation of the changes needed to bring about true revitalization of education in America.”
“I have watched with interest as Obama has had little effect on education in general, and I wonder if the next four years will be any different.”
“The reality is, education is just one piece of the pie—and it will not be until the overall economy is repaired that education can really look for a larger slice.”
“Federal spending must be cut, including education. I work in a [Race to the Top] position and see federal dollars being wasted.”