NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Phi Delta Kappa Poll Spins Public Attitudes

August 23, 2001

The annual poll by Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) on the public's attitudes toward education found support for vouchers is waning, says USA Today, while the approval rating of public schools is at an all-time high: 51 percent of U.S. adults give either grade A or B to the schools in their community.

However, the PDK and some news media outlets are misrepresenting the poll results, says the Center for Education Reform, which has examined education polls and surveys for five years.

For instance, USA Today says " for the controversial voucher program, which uses public money to underwrite the cost of students attending private schools, continues its downward slide." According to USA Today:

  • While 44 percent favored the idea in 1997 and 1998, the percentage dropped to 39 percent in 2000 and 34 percent in 2001.
  • Instead of vouchers, 72 percent of Americans favor reforming existing system, up from 59 percent in 2000.

Actually, the answer to this question is about the same as the poll found in 1997 and 1999, and the wording of the question forces respondents to choose between public school reform and alternatives. "Finding alternatives to the status quo or reforming it is not an either-or proposition," says CER.

  • CER points out that the survey shows a majority of public school parents (52 percent) support proposals that allow parents to choose any school (i.e., vouchers).
  • The poll "also showed ambivalence on standardized tests" says USA Today: "53 percent favor the use of a single standardized test to determine promotion from grade to grade; 45 percent oppose it. "

But again, CER points out, 81 percent want schools held accountable for student learning, and a solid majority wants standardized tests used to measure progress and greater authority for states in deciding how to spend federal funds.

Source: Tamara Henry, "Poll Finds Improving Approval Rating For Public Schools, Waning Support For Vouchers," USA Today, August 23, 2001; Lowell C. Rose and Alec M. Gallup, "The 33rd Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll Of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools," August 22, 2001; Press Release, "Anti-Reform Group Releases Annual Education Poll," August 22, 2001, Center for Education Reform.

For USA Today


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