HPU Poll: North Carolinians Share Their Views on Education Policy

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HIGH POINT, N.C., March 11, 2020 –  North Carolinians are engaged and interested in offering opinions on the state’s public schools, according to a recent High Point University Education Poll, a joint venture between faculty in HPU’s Department of Leadership Studies in the Stout School of Education and HPU’s Survey Research Center.

In the statewide survey, 45% of North Carolinians said that they think public education in North Carolina is headed in the wrong direction, and 34% said it is headed in the right direction.

North Carolina residents generally support a statewide bond referendum to pay for school construction and are also willing to pay more taxes to support increased teacher pay. In fact, 64% of respondents said that they favor a state bond referendum to fund an estimated $8 billion to $10 billion backlog in construction and renovation.

Majorities of North Carolinians said that they believe North Carolina teachers are paid too little (64%), and they would be willing to pay more in taxes to raise teacher pay to the national average within five years (53%).

They also believe ratings that report “quality” of schools should emphasize overall improvement scores of students more than their proficiency scores. Almost half (42%) of North Carolinians said that they favored grading schools with more emphasis on overall improvement rather than more emphasis on how many students attain a proficiency standard (23%), and 21% said both.

North Carolina residents also believe that, in general, most people have respect for principals, teachers and superintendents. More than three out of five North Carolinians said most people have respect for these groups: school principals (71%), public school teachers (70%) and school superintendents (60%). These ratings were comparable to respect for North Carolina’s governor (62%). 

Smaller majorities of North Carolina residents say the school boards (54%), North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Instruction (53%), the State Board of Education (52%) and county commissioners (52%) receive respect from most people.

“High Point University’s Survey Research Center findings affirm what conversations with our students leading, and aspiring to lead, North Carolina public schools and districts have told us: taxpayers are committed to seeing that well-respected teachers and principals are paid well, teach in schools that are maintained well, and governed by elected officials who mean well,” says Dr. Steven Bingham, professor of education in HPU’s Stout School of Education. “The poll also found that nearly half of respondents believe our schools are ‘headed in the wrong direction’ which challenges us now to do well.”    

All adults – Direction of Public Education (February 2020)

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 – 34%

Wrong direction – 45%

(Don’t know/Refused) – 21%

(All adult North Carolina residents phone and online sample, surveyed Feb. 21- 28, 2020, n  = 1,216 and credibility interval of +/- 3.4%)

All adults – Statewide Bond Referendum (February 2020)

The last statewide bond referendum for public school facility construction and maintenance was held in 1997. Would you generally favor or oppose a statewide bond referendum to provide North Carolina school districts with funds to address an estimated 8 to 10-billion-dollar backlog in school construction and renovation?

Favor – 64%

Oppose – 16%

(Don’t know/Refused) – 20%

(All adult North Carolina residents phone and online sample, surveyed Feb. 21- 28, 2020, n = 1,216 and credibility interval of +/- 3.4%)

All adults – Teacher Pay (February 2020)

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

Too little – 64%

About right – 22%

Too much – 4%

(Don’t know/Refused) – 10%

(All adult North Carolina residents phone and online sample, surveyed Feb. 21- 28, 2020, n = 1,216 and credibility interval of +/- 3.4%)

All adults – Tax increase for Teacher Pay (February 2020)

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 – 53%  

No – 33%   

(Don’t know/Refused) – 14%

(All adult North Carolina residents phone and online sample, surveyed Feb. 21- 28, 2020, n = 1,216 and credibility interval of +/- 3.4%)

All adults – Principals Pay (February 2020)

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

Too little – 17%

About right – 38%

Too much –  14%

(Don’t know/Refused) – 32%

(All adult North Carolina residents phone and online sample, surveyed Feb. 21- 28, 2020, n = 1,216 and credibility interval of +/- 3.4%)

All adults – Tax increase for Principal Pay (February 2020)

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

Yes – 30%  

No – 47%   

(Don’t know/Refused) – 23%

(All adult North Carolina residents phone and online sample, surveyed Feb. 21- 28, 2020, n = 1,216 and credibility interval of +/- 3.4%)

All adults – Improvement versus proficiency (February 2020)

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.

More emphasis on overall improvement – 42%

More emphasis on how many students attain proficiency – 23%

(Neither) – 6%

(Both) – 21%

(Don’t know/Refused) – 8%

(All adult North Carolina residents phone and online sample, surveyed Feb. 21- 28, 2020, n = 1,216 and credibility interval of +/- 3.4%)

All adults – Respect for Education Officials (February 2020)

I am going to read you a list of government officials and some other groups.  Please tell me whether you think that in general most people have respect for these people or groups.

Public school teachers

Yes – 70%

No – 29%

(Don’t know/Refused) – 1%

School principals

Yes – 71%

No – 28%

(Don’t know/Refused) – 1%

School superintendents

Yes – 60%

No – 40%

(Don’t know/Refused) – 1 %

School boards

Yes – 54%

No – 46%

(Don’t know/Refused) – 1%

County commissioners

Yes – 52%

No – 47%

(Don’t know/Refused) – 1%

North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Yes – 53%

No – 46%

(Don’t know/Refused) – 1%

North Carolina Governor

Yes – 62%

No – 38%

(Don’t know/Refused) – 1%

State legislators

Yes – 47%

No – 52%

(Don’t know/Refused) – 1%

State Board of Education

Yes – 52%

No – 48%

(Don’t know/Refused) – 1%

(All adult North Carolina residents phone and online sample, surveyed Feb. 21- 28, 2020, n = 1,216 and credibility interval of +/- 3.4%)

The most recent HPU Poll was fielded by live interviewers at the High Point University Survey Research Center calling on Feb. 21 through Feb. 28, 2020 and an online survey fielded at the same time. The responses from a sample of all North Carolina counties came from 1,216 adults interviewed online (916 respondents) as well as landline or cellular telephones (300 respondents). The Survey Research Center contracted with dynata, formerly Research Now SSI: https://www.dynata.com/ to acquire these samples, and fielded the online survey using its Qualtrics platform. This is a combined sample of live phone interviews and online interviews. The online sampling is from a panel of respondents, so their participation does not adhere to usual assumptions associated with random selection. Therefore, it is not appropriate to assign a classical margin of sampling error for the results. In this case, the SRC provides a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points to account for a traditional 95% confidence interval for the estimates (plus or minus 2.8 percentage points) and a design effect of 1.2 (based on the weighting). The data is weighted toward population estimates for age, gender, race/ethnicity, and education level based on U.S. Census numbers for North Carolina. 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/2020/03/70memoE.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, chair and associate professor of political science, serves as the director of the HPU Poll, and Brian McDonald is the associate director of the HPU Poll.

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