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N.J. Poll: Parent Involvement, Not Vouchers, Key to School Reform

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New Jersey voters cite parent involvement as the most crucial factor in resolving the state's public school problems, according to a new survey released this week.

Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind Poll found that 71 percent of voters believe that requiring more parent involvement would lead to "major improvements" to New Jersey's public schools. Another 70 percent said the lack of parent involvement is a "major" obstacle impeding learning for K-12 public school students.

Of the solutions voters considered to fix pubic schools, vouchers came in last with 40 percent, according to the poll. Parent involvement tops the list of remedies, with 70 percent, followed by increased school funding at 53 percent and reforming teacher tenure at 52 percent. The survey found that vouchers have greater support among minorities with 52 percent of non-white voters favoring the school choice option compared to 35 percent of white voters. Fairleigh Dickinson University interviewed 700 registered voters by phone last month for the survey.

"This speaks to the difficulty of assuming that a single remedy will suffice to satisfy the concerns of parents," said Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind and professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson, in Hackensack, N.J.

The stark differences along party lines found in the poll were somewhat predictable. Seventy percent of Democrats surveyed believe more money will lead to greater improvements in schools while their only a third of Republicans held that view.

Conversely, 63 percent of Republicans and 54 percent of Democrats said poorly trained or ineffective teachers are the cause of failing schools. And 63 percent of Republicans believe teacher tenure reform will yield greater school reform in comparison to 46 percent of Democrats.

"When Democrats and Republicans see things so differently, it's easy to understand why any changes to the system are difficult to achieve and not without controversy," Jenkins said in a news release.

See our full coverage of parent empowerment issues.

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