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PDK Poll finds public doesn’t support using taxpayer funds for tuition at private, religious schools

PDK International has released its 49th Annual poll results on how Americans view public education. And while the findings reinforce that most public school parents (62 percent) like their local schools – more give their community schools an A grade than at any time in more than 40 years of PDK polling -- there is also considerable demand among the general public for schools to provide more work readiness via career skills classes, licensing and certificate programs, and technology and engineering classes.

According to the 2017 poll, 82 percent of Americans support job or career skills classes even if it means some students might spend less time on traditional academics. Some 86 percent said schools should offer certificate or licensing programs that qualify students for employment upon graduation, and 82 percent see technology and engineering classes as extremely or very important elements of school quality.

The findings show that Americans “support the academic mission” of public schools, “but they also want local schools to position students for their working lives after school, including programs to develop interpersonal skills,” said Joshua P. Starr, chief executive officer, PDK International, publisher of Kappan magazine.

Respondents were also supportive of schools providing mental health services to students in need (87 percent) and after-school programs (92 percent) to students across the board. Further, 76 percent of Americans said local school systems are justified in seeking additional public funding to pay for these and other “wraparound services.”

When it comes to supporting vouchers, however, substantially more Americans oppose rather than support using taxpayer funds to send students to private school (52 percent to 39 percent).  Opposition increases to 61 percent when the question includes vouchers for religious schools.

That majority position on vouchers is supported by NSBA’s 2017-2018 Advocacy Agenda which cites as a priority “Defend(ing) against privatization by challenging vouchers, tuition tax credits and similar schemes.”

Racial/ethnic and economic diversity in schools is favored by 70 percent of parents, including equal numbers of whites and nonwhites, who say they’d prefer to have their child in a racially diverse school. There’s a limit, however, to what parents are willing to do to make that happen. Only 25 percent say they’d like their child to attend a racially diverse school and would be willing to take on a longer commute to do it.

The PDK poll has surveyed Americans’ opinions about public education every year since 1969. It is based on a random, representative 50-state sample of 1,588 adults, including 636 parents of school-age children, interviewed in May by cell or landline phone in English or Spanish. It has a margin of error of ±3.5 percentage points for the full sample and 5 percentage points for parents of public school students.

For more findings and information on PDK’s methodology, visit www.pdkpoll.org

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