A Majority of Public Supports Common Core, but Opposition is Growing

Paul E. Peterson, ppeterso@gov.harvard.edu, 617-495-8312 (7976), or 617-495-7976, Harvard University
Michael B. Henderson, mbhendel@olemiss.edu, 662-915-5417, University of Mississippi
Ashley Inman, aeic.consulting@gmail.com, 707 332-1184, Education Next Communications Office

A Majority of the Public Support Common Core, but Opposition Is Growing

National survey finds declining support for increased school spending and higher teacher salaries; fewer think schools do well at attending to the needs of the less-talented than think the more-talented are well served.

The opinions of Americans on the Common Core, private schools, preschool, school expenditures, merit pay, and school vouchers are revealed in “The 2013 Education Next Survey on What Americans Are Thinking about Common Core and Other Education Policies.” The seventh annual survey of a nationally representative sample of the U.S. adult population is now available at https://www.educationnext.org.

The study’s authors, Michael B. Henderson and Paul E. Peterson, find that the Common Core is one of the most popular education proposals, garnering support from 65 percent of respondents. The percentage of those opposed has doubled from single digits a year ago to 13 percent today, however. Peterson observes that “the opposition is still very small, but the trend line should give Common Core supporters pause.”

The poll finds that 49 percent of the public give their local public schools an overall grade of an “A” or “B,” and no less than 73 percent feel confident in the schools’ ability to attend to the needs of the most-talented students. Only 45 percent have confidence in their ability to meet the needs of less-talented students. In contrast, 74 percent of the public give private schools one of the two top grades.

Other key findings from the survey:

–       School Spending: Just over half (53 percent) of respondents support increases in school funding, down from 63 percent last year. Among those given information about current levels of funding, 43 percent support spending increases, the same as a year ago.

–       Teachers Salaries: Support for increasing teacher salaries fell to 55 percent from 64 percent a year ago. Among those told about current teacher salaries, 37 percent support salary increments, about the same as in 2012.

–       Estimating Per-Pupil Spending: When asked to estimate per-pupil expenditure levels, the public guessed $6,680, roughly half of the actual amount of $12,637 spent, on average.

–       Merit Pay for Teachers: While support for performance pay for teachers based on student progress remains at 49 percent, opposition grew from 27 percent in 2011 to 39 percent this year.

–       Pre-K Spending: Three-fifths of the public say they would support a proposal “that would allow low- and moderate-income four-year-old children to be given the opportunity to attend a preschool program, with the government paying the tuition.” Only 27 percent of those surveyed voice opposition.

–       School Choice: While Americans’ support for a universal voucher plan remains steady at 44 percent, rising just 1 percentage point from last year, opposition to universal vouchers grew from 29 percent in 2012 to 37 percent this year.

Henderson comments that even though “the past year has been marked by teacher strikes, debt crises at all levels of government, and intense partisan debate, public opinion on many education policy issues remains quite stable.”

A table containing results for all survey items, along with past years’ surveys, can be found at https://www.educationnext.org/edfacts. Authors are available for interviews.

About the Authors

Michael Henderson is assistant professor of political science at the University of Mississippi. Paul E. Peterson is the director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

About Education Next

Education Next is a scholarly journal published by the Hoover Institution that is committed to careful examination of evidence relating to school reform. Other sponsoring institutions are the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, part of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. For more information about Education Next, please visit: https://www.educationnext.org.

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