NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Apathy Toward Schools

April 17, 2001

Only about half of Americans say they are involved in education issues, according to a recent poll focusing on attitudes toward schools. As Americans get older their interest in the condition of public schools wanes, researchers found. The most involved are college-educated, married, upper-income and parents of children under 18.

The study was commissioned by the Public Education Network (PEN) -- a national network of community school reform organizations -- and the newspaper Education Week.

Among the findings:

  • It would take a major crisis to motivate a majority of those surveyed to take a more active roll in public education.
  • The public seems content to sit back and leave school improvements to the experts rather than taking action to bring about change.
  • Nearly seven out of every 10 surveyed said they have zero to three hours per week that they could use to help their schools.
  • A majority are aware of the depth of commitment it would take to fix ailing schools, but feel helpless to fix them.

Two-thirds said they would be more likely to do things like vote or sign a petition -- actions which require little time or commitment -- but less likely to write a letter or participate in a school committee.

When asked to list the top issue of interest to them, 37 percent of participants named education as their top priority.

Source: "Action for All: The Public's Responsibility for Public Education," April 2001, Public Education Network and Education Week; Andrea Billups, "Public Uninvolved in Local Education," Washington Times, April 17, 2001.


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