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Polls Gauge Americans' View of Public Schools

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National polls released this week provide an interesting snapshot of the public's attitudes toward K-12 education.

In a new poll by Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup, the majority of public school parents give their children's schools an encouraging A or B, in sharp contrast with the solid C those surveyed give to nation's public schools as a whole. Respondents also believe that public charter schools provide a better education than other public schools.

The PDK/Gallup poll, which was released Aug. 21, also found that parents believe that their child has a higher level of well-being because of their local school. Most parents also agreed that their child's school is a safe place that helps students become healthier and more involved in the community.

While many school districts are cutting back on extracurricular activities to decrease costs, the poll found that 94 percent of those polled believe that band, drama, sports, and other activities are very or somewhat important.

So it seems logical that according to the PDK/Gallup poll, Americans believe the biggest challenge facing public schools continues to be lack of financial support. But the issue of school funding appears to be a bit muddled in the minds of most Americans at least according to the results of a separate survey.

In a national poll commissioned by Education Next, the K-12 policy journal asked Americans about local school spending in two different ways. Only half of their respondents were told the current per-pupil spending in their district before being asked whether they would like to see funding for their schools increase.

For those respondents not told their school spending amounts, 53 percent supported higher funding—down 10 percentage points from last year. Among those who learned the actual funding levels, 43 percent backed spending hikes, the same as the previous year.

Fewer Americans seemed to support higher teacher pay as well. The 2013 poll released Tuesday found that 55 percent of respondents not informed of teachers' current salaries supported increases in teacher pay—that's down 9 percentage points from last year. Of those who were told about their district's current teacher salaries, only 37 percent favor a boost in pay, roughly the same percentage as last year.

For more perspective on the PDK/Gallup poll read Lesli A. Maxwell's piece in Education Week.

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