Public opinion turning against Obama education plans

A new Gallup Poll has found fewer Americans approve of the job President Barack Obama is doing in support of public education, but they continue to have a highly favorable opinion of their local schools, reports the Associated Press. The drop in the president’s education approval ratings—as found in the random telephone poll of about 1,000 Americans in June—mirrors the drop in his general approval rating in other recent polls, said Shane Lopez, senior scientist in residence for Gallup. The education poll released Aug. 25 was paid for by Phi Delta Kappa (PDK). It found 34 percent gave the president a grade of A or B for his work in support of public schools, compared with 45 percent at the same time in 2009. They gave even worse grades for the quality of the nation’s schools, but said they approve of their local schools. Americans picked school budgets and improving teacher quality as their top education issues, but said they were mostly unaware of the impact of Congress’ stimulus dollars on education. “We have a love affair with our local schools, especially the schools that our children attend,” Lopez said. But that doesn’t mean people have a deep knowledge of how schools get the money that makes them succeed, he added. The PDK/Gallup poll has been criticized in previous years for framing its questions to validate the organization’s agenda—support for smaller classes and higher teacher pay and criticism of the No Child Left Behind law. PDK critic Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, thinks the organization did a slightly better job this year of exploring the issues, but dislikes the way the poll was presented. “I’m not so sure this is a public opinion survey, rather than an attempt to influence people to think in a certain way about the issues,” Allen said…

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Study finds public discontent with colleges

A new study suggests most Americans believe that colleges today operate like businesses, concerned more with their bottom line than with the educational experience of students, reports the New York Times. The proportion of people who hold that view has increased to 60 percent, from 52 percent in 2007. And nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said colleges should use federal stimulus money to hold down tuition, even if it means less money for operations and programs. The study, a joint project of Public Agenda and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, also found that most Americans believe colleges could admit a lot more students without lowering their quality or raising prices, and that colleges could spend less and maintain a high quality of education. “One of the really disturbing things about this, for those of us who work in higher education,” said Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, “is the vote of no confidence we’re getting from the public. They think college is important, but they’re really losing trust in the management and leadership.”

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