For the past half-century, Phi Delta Kappa (PDK), an organization of professional educators, has released a nationwide poll this time of year that attempts to capture the American public’s attitudes toward public education.
For the 19th consecutive year, Americans have named the lack of funding as the biggest problem facing their local schools and by a higher margin than in recent years.
Nearly two-thirds (66 percent) of those surveyed say teacher pay in their community is too low, while just 6 percent say it’s too high. Further, for the first time since the question was asked in 1969, a majority of respondents (54 percent) say they would not want their child to become a public school teacher, often citing poor pay and benefits among their reasons.
Respondents support spending more on students who need extra support (60%) rather than spending the same amount on every student (39%). However, they divide evenly on where the funds should come from: Half of respondents favor raising taxes to accommodate the additional need; half say the schools should spend less on students who require fewer resources. Sharp partisan and ideological differences are apparent in the results.
Most adults surveyed continue to think well of their community’s schools—43 percent give their local schools and “A” or “B” grade compared to just 19 percent for public schools nationally. Among those who know their local schools the best, parents of current public school children, 70 percent give their oldest child’s school an A or B grade.
Of concern is that 55 percent of the adults surveyed say students today receive a worse education than what they did when they were students. Respondents view job preparation as particularly weak in today’s schools, perhaps reflecting that many jobs today require more than a high school diploma. However, they also identified a number of areas—college prep, encouraging critical thinking and providing a good education for all—where schools today are doing a better job than they did when they were in school.
On the question of school safety, while many parents worry about whether schools can protect their children against a school shooting, parents on the whole favor armed police officers, mental health screenings and metal detectors over arming teachers as a way to protect their children.
Although most high school parents are generally satisfied with their child’s current school schedule, more than half think the current start and end times are too early by at least 30 minutes.
The full report digs deeper into these topics and others. You can read or download the full report here.