A majority of Americans say local is best when it comes to school leadership

Over the last year, data has consistently shown Americans are concerned about the public school system. From disputes about the implementation of Common Core State Standards to questions about students’ competitiveness in the global market, many issues related to our schools have been hot topics for debate in recent months. It leads to an important question: who do Americans want to take the lead in determining the future of our public schools?

Data from the 46th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools* indicates that a majority of Americans think local is best when it comes to decisions related to our schools.

“In your opinion, who should have the greatest influence in deciding what is taught in the public schools here – the federal government, the state government, or the local school board?”


By a two-to-one margin, Americans prefer local school boards take the lead in determining what is taught, compared to state government (56{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} versus 28{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}). And, local school boards have a 41-point advantage over the federal government (15{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}).

The preference for local control is certainly not a new trend as Gallup’s data going back more than three decades has always shown a preference for school boards over the government. However, the most recent data does represent a 10-point shift towards local leadership after years of steady movement toward state and federal government influence.


There is a significant partisan dimension to these views, but pluralities of Republicans, Independents and Democrats all say that local school boards should have the most influence in what is taught in public schools. Fully two-thirds (68{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of Republicans prefer school boards, compared to just over half (55{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of Independents and 45{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Democrats.


And, public school parents reflect adults overall, with six-in-ten (60{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) preferring local school boards to have the greatest influence. One-quarter (27{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) say the state government should take the lead, while just 12{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} select the federal government.

As the country’s leaders continue to debate big issues surrounding education, it is important for them to remember that Americans prefer local leadership over a state or federal approach.


* N=1,001 adults nationally, conducted May 29-June 20, 2014 via telephone. All respondents were from the Gallup Panel, a probability-based longitudinal panel of more than 60,000 U.S. adults selected using random digit dial phone interviews on landlines and cell phones.

Public Opinion Strategies