School’s (almost) out for summer, but Americans remain focused on education reform

While the academic year is drawing to a close in schools across the country, Americans are not ready to let Congress and the president take a vacation from the issue of education reform.  In a new Gallup study conducted May 4-5, eight-in-ten (81{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) adults say “improving the quality of education received by American school children” should be either a top or a high priority for the country’s leaders.  Of the twelve issues tested, improving education only ranks behind the economic concerns of creating more jobs (86{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} top/high priority) and helping the economy grow (86{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) in terms of total priority.May 2013 Table

As other recent polls have shown, concern about improving education cuts across party lines with 76{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Republicans, 78{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Independents and 89{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Democrats naming education either a top or a high priority.

And, it does not look like Americans are willing to give the country’s leaders an easy final exam in this policy area.  According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center earlier this month, two-thirds (66{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of Americans agree that the education system needs to be completely rebuilt (21{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) or needs major changes (45{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}).  For comparison, just two issues rank ahead of education in terms of issue areas that need major reform: immigration policy (75{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} rebuilt/major changes) and the tax system (72{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}).

Again, these broad views about the state of America’s schools are shared by voters across the political spectrum, with 65{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Republicans, 67{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Independents and 67{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Democrats saying the education system should be rebuilt or needs major changes.

Though there are no CliffsNotes to help Congress and the president ace this test, they should take note of developments at the state level.  Public Opinion Strategies’ analysis of the 2013 State of the State speeches reveals that one-in-four (25{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) proposals from America’s governors related to education issues, more than any other policy area.  It is clear that leaders at the state level are honing in on the importance of this issue and developing new and creative ideas to address Americans’ concern about the quality of public education.  Next month, I’ll take a closer look at voter reaction to some of the governors’ education proposals.

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