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Gallup Poll Results Offer a Mixed Blessing for Public Education

August 27, 2017

The headline for the findings of the recent Gallup poll on the public’s perception of public education appears to be bad news for public education. It reads:

Private Schools First, Public Schools Last in K-12 Ratings

Further down in the article, though, one finds this information, with my emphasis added in bold red italics:

Private School Image Slips Slightly, Public Up Slightly

This year’s overall rank order is the same as what Gallup found in its only prior measurement, in August 2012. However, since then, the percentage of U.S. adults who consider public school education as excellent or good increased by seven percentage points, while positive perceptions of private school education fell by the same amount.

Positive ratings of parochial education are also down slightly, by six points, while the ratings for charter schools and home schooling are statistically unchanged.

In other good news for those who believe universal public education is crucial for the well-being of our country and charter schools have a corrosive impact on that universal requirement, the Gallup poll found that the public’s perception of charter schools has also declined in the past five years:

The parties diverge on charter schools. While the percentage of Republicans considering these types of schools as excellent or good has held steady at 62%, Democrats’ reviews have fallen from 61% positive in 2012 to 48% today, perhaps as charter schooling is becoming more closely tied to Donald Trump’s administration. His secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, is a longtime proponent of charter schools as a way to give parents alternatives to public schools.

These trends notwithstanding, the Gallup poll pundits draw this bewildering conclusion:

Americans as a whole believe private and parochial schools do a better job of educating students than public schools do, something that might be remedied with the right federal or state public school education policies. Another remedy may be expanding charter schools so that parents of children in failing public schools who can’t afford private school have other options for their children.

I may be prejudiced in my thinking, but my interpretation of the poll findings would emphasize the trend toward support for public education and the trend toward a decline in support for charter schools as evidence that the best way to address “failing public schools” would be to provide more funding for them. But, as noted in the next paragraph in the Gallup poll’s “implications” section it appears that is NOT the direction Betsy DeVos wants to go:

DeVos recently told a charter schools conference, “No one has a monopoly on innovation. No one has a monopoly on creativity. No one has a monopoly on knowing how every child learns.” That reflects a very different philosophy of education than the philosophy that government money should be focused on lifting public schools to their maximum potential.

Even though the Democratic party has effectively endorsed the “failing public schools” meme, Democratic party voters have a different perspective. They are jumping off the charter school bandwagon in large numbers!

Bottom line: the headline notwithstanding, the Gallup poll findings are a mixed bag for public school advocates. That said, I would have been happier had I read this headline, which, by the way, is equally accurate:

Private School and Charter School K-12 Approval Ratings Decline, Public School Ratings Jump Since 2012

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