According to recent poll numbers published by the American Federation of Teachers, the majority of public school parents are not on board with the direction education reform has taken. The data, collected by Democratic pollster Hart Research Associates, comes from responses given by 1,000 parents this month, and shows that majority of families would prefer that more resources be put towards improving their local schools than providing them with alternatives like charters.
Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post writes that Randi Weingarten, AFT President, based her speech at the union's annual conference on the poll numbers. The speech calls on states to concentrate their investment in public schools and to stop reform measures like excessive testing, shutting down or converting underperforming schools, and opening up education to investment from the private sector.
The union is fighting plans by school systems to shutter schools in struggling Chicago, Philadelphia and D.C. neighborhoods. Union officials say the poll results counter the argument made by those pushing policy changes that parents want more choice in deciding where to send their children and a market-based approach to education.
More than 60% of parents polled expressed dissatisfaction with the policy of closing poorly-performing schools and reassigning students elsewhere. The survey, which has a margin of error of 3.1%, showed that about a third of the parents supported the policy.
The support for funding charters at the expense of public schools was even lower. According to Layton, fewer than one in four of those polled thought that students benefited from more charters being opened while public school classrooms lost resources.
On the issue of standardized tests, a majority of parents surveyed said that too much learning in the classroom has been sacrificed in order to accommodate state tests during the school year. A majority of parents reported that their children have been anxious about those tests. Pockets of resistance to standardized testing have been popping up across the country, with students in Seattle, Pittsburgh and elsewhere opting out of tests this spring in protest.
Among respondents, 38 percent identified as Democrats, 33 percent considered themselves independents and 29 percent were Republicans.
The opinions over extending the school day were much closer. Although nearly 60% thought that it was a bad idea, a full one-third of those polled expressed support for it. A high number of parents also indicated that they were worried about high rates of teacher turnover in their local schools, as well as the decline in the number of arts and music classes at the expense of math and reading.
But according to Jason Bedrick of The Cato Institute, the survey was carefully designed to elicit responses that match the AFT's agenda. On the Cato at Liberty blog, Bedrick details that an examination of the survey's questions show why the results differed from other surveys such as Harvard's Program on Education and Government annual survey, suggesting that parent attitudes are friendlier to popular education reform policies than the AFT claims.