Last modified: Wednesday, February 2, 2005
Majority of Hoosiers pleased with their schools, think K-12 schools under-funded
Full-day kindergarten draws more support
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana's public K-12 schools are under-funded, a majority of respondents to an Indiana University public opinion survey reported. Not only did a high percentage of Indiana citizens report that school funding levels affect the quality of education students receive, but an increasing percentage of citizens (58 percent compared to 49 percent the previous year) reported a willingness to pay higher taxes to increase school funding.
Support for full-day kindergarten received a boost, too, with 61 percent of survey respondents reporting they would pay more taxes, if necessary, to fund a statewide full-day kindergarten program, compared to only 46 percent indicating such willingness in the previous year.
These are just some of the findings from the 2004 Public Opinion Survey on Education in Indiana, conducted by the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University Bloomington. CEEP officials presented the findings to the Indiana State Board of Education today (Feb. 2). The survey, conducted in November before education funding became such a hot state budget issue, is the second in a series of three annual surveys designed to gauge public support and awareness of key federal and state educational policies and issues, such as school funding, testing, charter schools and the federal No Child Left Behind program.
As with the 2003 survey, a majority of respondents reported a high level of overall satisfaction with public schools, particularly their local schools -- 65 percent of Hoosiers reported their community schools were excellent or good, up from 62 percent in 2003's benchmark survey.
"Hoosiers continue to express positive feelings about their schools, especially the local schools with which they are most familiar," said Jonathan Plucker, director of the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy and lead researcher for the poll. "The survey results suggest broad support for a number of specific education policies, including several aspects of the state's P-16 education initiative. However, Indiana residents also see areas in need of improvement."
The preliminary report on the survey findings can be seen at http://ceep.indiana.edu/projects/PDF/POS_report_pre_2004.pdf. Here are some of the highlights:
- Compared to last year, the percentage of people willing to pay higher taxes to increase school funding increased by almost 10 points to 58 percent. This response did not differ greatly for parents of school-age children and those without. Ninety percent of respondents reported believing that school funding levels affect the quality of education students receive to some extent.
- Residents in central Indiana were more likely to report schools are under-funded (69 percent) compared to northern Indiana (63 percent) and southern Indiana (55 percent).
- The level of public satisfaction with Indiana schools was even higher when residents were asked about teacher quality. According to the survey, 72 percent of the respondents reported that teachers were excellent or good.
- Significantly more Hoosiers (75 percent) reported knowing a little or a lot about the federal No Child Left Behind program. In the previous survey, 40 percent of respondents reported knowing nothing about the program. CEEP officials attribute the increase in awareness to the recent presidential election, which focused attention on the program. Despite this growing awareness, 70 percent of the respondents reported a "total" lack of awareness about Indiana's accountability law.
- A majority of respondents (74 percent) believe ISTEP has contributed, at least in part, to improvements in the quality of education in Indiana. They also tend to agree that ISTEP holds schools accountable for student achievement and gives parents helpful information about a school's performance.
- The idea of raising the drop-out age for high school students from 16 to 18 was supported by a three-to-one ratio.
- Concerning school choice, 78 percent of respondents believe parents should be able to send their children to another public school if a school fails to meet state performance standards. When asked about their familiarity with the two other school choice strategies -- vouchers and charter schools -- about 60 percent of respondents expressed little knowledge of these two programs. When given some information about the concept of a charter school, 56 percent indicated they would favor the creation of charter schools.
The survey reports the results of 612 telephone interviews from a random sample of Indiana households. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent.
CEEP promotes and supports rigorous program evaluation and policy research primarily, but not exclusively, for education, human services and non-profit organizations. Its research uses both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. To learn more about CEEP, go to http://ceep.indiana.edu.
Plucker can be reached at 812-325-7608 on Wednesday (Feb. 2). On Thursday and Friday, he can be reached at 812-855-4438 and firstname.lastname@example.org.