New national poll reveals public’s thoughts on education

A new poll reveals thoughts on illegal immigrants and education, bullying, and more.

Americans have a number of conflicting viewpoints in their preferences for investing in schools, going head-to-head on issues like paying for the education of the children of illegal immigrants, according to the 2012 annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.

There are clear partisan divides over whether children of illegal immigrants should receive free public education, school lunches, and other benefits, with 65 percent of Democrats versus 21 percent of Republicans favoring it. Overall, support for providing public education to these children is increasing. Forty-one percent of Americans favor this, up from 28 percent in 1995.

Americans are also more divided across party lines than ever before in their support for public charter schools, with Republicans more supportive (80 percent) than Democrats (54 percent). However, approval declined overall to 66 percent this year from a record 70 percent last year. Additionally, the public is split in its support of school vouchers, with nearly half (44 percent) believing that the nation should allow students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense, up 10 percentage points from last year.

Though Americans clearly have opposing stances on many education issues, when the poll — conducted annually by Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) in conjunction with Gallup — asked Americans whether they believe Common Core State Standards would provide more consistency in the quality of education between school districts and states, 75 percent said yes. In fact, more than half of Americans (53 percent) believe common core state standards would make U.S. education more competitive globally.

Ninety-seven percent of the public also agrees that it is very or somewhat important to improve the nation’s urban schools, and almost two of three Americans (62 percent) said they would pay more taxes to provide funds to improve the quality of urban schools. Eighty-nine percent of Americans agree that it is very or somewhat important to close the achievement gap between white students and black and Hispanic students.

And though Americans are almost evenly split in their support for requiring that teacher evaluations include how well students perform on standardized tests, with 52 percent in favor, they are in agreement about increasing the selectivity of teacher preparation programs. In fact, at least three of four Americans believe that entrance requirements into teacher preparation programs need to be at least as selective as those for engineering, business, pre-law, and pre-medicine.

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