HPU Poll: North Carolinians See Education Headed in Wrong Direction

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HIGH POINT, N.C., March 3, 2016 – The newest High Point University Poll finds North Carolinians concerned about the direction of public education in the state as well as a number of education policies being implemented or proposed at the state level.

Overall, two-thirds (66 percent) of state residents said they thought public education in North Carolina was headed in the wrong direction. And when these North Carolinians were asked to grade public schools overall, only 3 percent gave schools an A compared to the most common response 41 percent – a grade of C.

The survey respondents were critical of a number of policies at the state level and split on their opinions about others. When asked about the impact they thought that reductions in per pupil funding would have, a total of 70 percent of North Carolinians said they thought it would have a strong negative impact or negative impact. Similarly, 81 percent of the respondents said that North Carolina having fewer teaching assistants in classrooms would have a negative impact. North Carolinians were divided on the impact of providing vouchers for low income families to attend private schools with a total of 43 percent predicting a negative impact and 42 percent predicting a positive impact.

Despite recent raises in teacher pay, a large majority of North Carolinians see teacher pay as too low. A total of 61 percent of the survey respondents said the effect of recent $750 bonuses for all teachers and pay raises for teachers who had served a multiple of five years had a positive impact. But 83 percent of respondents said that in general, public school teachers were paid too little. Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of North Carolinians said they would pay more in taxes so that North Carolina teachers would be paid at the level of the national average within five years.

“North Carolina residents are concerned about the direction of education in North Carolina,” says Dr. Don Martin, professor in educational leadership at HPU. “When 73 percent would be willing to pay more taxes to see that teacher pay reaches the national average in five years, decision makers in Raleigh should listen. While higher pay does not solve all of North Carolina’s educational problems, it does help attract and retain quality teachers – the very people who make the most difference in student achievement.”

When asked about how school quality should be rated, 60 percent of North Carolinians said they preferred more emphasis on overall student improvement compared to 31 percent who said it was better to emphasize how many students attain a particular level of proficiency.

North Carolinians were critical of a proposal to require the bottom five percent of the lowest performing schools to be taken over by out of state, for-profit companies. Seventy-four percent of state residents said they would oppose such a policy.

North Carolinians also voiced support for state and federal pre-school programs as well as arts education. Seventy-two percent said they would vote for a law that would spend government money to establish federal and state programs making high-quality preschools available to every child in America who would qualify for free lunch. Nine out of ten state residents said they favored providing arts education in public schools.

“The HPU poll results suggest that North Carolina residents recognize the need to invest in public education,” says Dr. Barbara Mallory, associate professor in educational leadership at HPU. “They are willing to pay additional taxes specifically to support teacher salary increases. More than that, they are in favor of recognizing student growth and improvement as a major factor by which to measure the investment. It is great that North Carolina residents are expressing the need to invest in education by offering pre-school and by putting teacher assistants back to work. We will continue on the wrong path if we do not make this investment and commitment to public education.”

HPU Poll - NC Education - Feb. 2016

All adults – Direction of Public Education

Overall, in which direction would you say that public education in North Carolina is headed? Would you say the right direction or wrong direction?

Right direction – 23 percent

Wrong direction – 66 percent

(Don’t know/Refused) – 11 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed February 18 – 25, n = 476 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

HPU Poll - NC education grade - Feb. 2016

All adults – Grading quality of public schools

Using a grade of A, B, C, D and F – where A is excellent and F is very poor – how would you grade North Carolina on the quality of its public schools?

A – 3 percent

B – 18 percent

C – 41 percent

D – 20 percent

F – 10 percent

(Don’t know/Refused) – 7 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed February 18 – 25, n = 476 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

All adults – Educational Impact of Recent Legislation

I am going to read a list of summaries of legislation that the North Carolina General Assembly passed and Governor McCrory signed into law. Please indicate to what extent you believe these changes will impact the quality of public education in North Carolina. For each item you can say strong negative impact, negative impact, no impact, positive impact or strong positive impact.

Per pupil funding was reduced – North Carolina ranks among the bottom few states in per pupil funding.

Strong negative impact – 36 percent

Negative impact – 34 percent

No impact – 10 percent

Positive impact – 6 percent

Strong positive impact – 6 percent

(Don’t know/Refused) – 9 percent

The state will provide low-income families with $4,200 vouchers to attend private school, with $20 million to be allocated in 2015 alone.

Strong negative impact – 19 percent

Negative impact – 24 percent

No impact – 9 percent

Positive impact – 28 percent

Strong positive impact – 14 percent

(Don’t know/Refused) – 7 percent

The state gave raises to those teachers whose experience totaled a multiple of five years and all teachers a one-time $750 bonus.

Strong negative impact – 6 percent

Negative impact – 15 percent

No impact – 14 percent

Positive impact – 44 percent

Strong positive impact – 17 percent

(Don’t know/Refused) – 4 percent

North Carolina schools having fewer teacher assistants in the classroom.

Strong negative impact – 30 percent

Negative impact – 51 percent

No impact – 6 percent

Positive impact – 5 percent

Strong positive impact – 3 percent

(Don’t know/Refused) – 5 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed February 18 – 25, n = 476 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

All adults – Rating schools on overall improvement or student proficiency

I am going to read two statements about how to rate the quality of schools. Please tell me whether the first statement or the second statement is closer to your own view.  In rating schools, there should be more emphasis on how much students improve overall OR In rating schools, there should be more emphasis on how many students attain a particular level of proficiency.

More emphasis on overall improvement – 60 percent

More emphasis on how many students attain proficiency – 31 percent

(Neither) – 1 percent

(Both) – 4 percent

(Don’t know/Refused) – 5 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed February 18 – 25, n = 476 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

All adults – For-profit companies taking over low performing schools

North Carolina’s Governor and General Assembly are currently considering a proposal to require the bottom 5 percent of the lowest performing schools to be taken over by out of state, for-profit companies.

Would you generally support or oppose this policy?

Support – 20 percent

Oppose – 74 percent

(Don’t know/Refused) – 6 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed February 18 – 25, n = 476 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

All adults – Teacher pay

HPU Poll - Teacher pay - Feb. 2016

Generally speaking, would you say that North Carolina public school teachers are paid too little, about the right amount, or too much?

Too little – 83 percent

About right – 10 percent

Too much – 1 percent

(Don’t know/Refused) – 6 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed February 18 – 25, n = 476 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

HPU Poll - Tax hike to pay teachers more - Feb. 2016

All adults – Paying more in taxes to pay teachers more

Would you be willing to pay more in taxes so that North Carolina teachers would be paid at the level of the national average within five years?

Yes – 73 percent

No – 22 percent

(Don’t know/Refused) – 6 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed February 18 – 25, n = 476 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

All adults – Federal and state programs to support pre-schools

Suppose that on Election Day you could vote on key issues as well as candidates. Would you vote for or against a law that would spend government money to establish federal and state programs making high-quality preschools available to every child in America who would qualify for free lunch?

Vote for – 72 percent

Vote against – 24 percent

(Don’t know/Refused) – 5 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed February 18 – 25, n = 476 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

All adults – Support for arts education

Would you say you favor or oppose arts education in public schools?

Favor – 90 percent

Oppose – 8 percent

(Don’t know/Refused) – 2 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed February 18 – 25, n = 476 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

The most recent HPU Poll was fielded by live interviewers at the High Point University Survey Research Center calling on Feb. 18 – 25, 2016. The responses from a sample of all North Carolina counties came from 476 adults with landline or cellular telephones. The Survey Research Center contracted with Survey Sampling International to acquire this sample. The survey has an estimated margin of sampling error of approximately 4.5 percentage points for all adult respondents. The data is weighted toward population estimates for cellular and landline telephone use, age, gender and race. In addition to sampling error, factors such as question wording and other methodological choices in conducting survey research can introduce additional error into the findings of opinion polls. Details from this survey are available at http://www.highpoint.edu/src/files/2016/03/44memoE.pdf.

Further results and methodological details from the most recent survey and past studies can be found at the Survey Research Center website at http://www.highpoint.edu/src/. The materials online include past press releases as well as memos summarizing the findings (including approval ratings) for each poll since 2010.

The HPU Poll reports methodological details in accordance with the standards set out by AAPOR’s Transparency Initiative, and the HPU Survey Research Center is a Charter Member of the Initiative. For more information, see http://transparency.aapor.org/index.php/transparency.

You can follow the HPU Poll on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HPUSurveyCenter. Dr. Martin Kifer, assistant professor of political science, serves as the director of the HPU Poll, and Brian McDonald serves as the assistant director of the HPU Poll.

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