Archive for Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Schools earn A’s; legislators given F’s

Statewide poll finds Kansans satisfied with public education

September 8, 2004


— A growing majority of Kansans believe their schools are doing well enough to deserve a grade of A or B, according to a survey released Tuesday.

But the Kansas Legislature had better head for study hall, because almost half the respondents gave lawmakers a D or an F.

The survey has been conducted periodically since 1980 and gauges Kansans' feelings about education and politics.

"This can help policy-makers see what Kansas citizens are interested in," said Brian Schrader, research director for Emporia State University's Jones Institute for Educational Excellence, which oversaw the "Kansans' Attitudes Toward Education" study.

The latest results come as the Kansas Supreme Court is considering whether the state is adequately financing public education. Nearly half of those surveyed said they would support a tax increase for schools, though lawmakers in the most recent legislative session repeatedly rebuffed efforts to pass one.

More than 50 percent of respondents said they favored reforming the existing system, while 12 percent would like some alternative to it. About 30 percent were undecided.

More supporting schools

The new study found that for the first time in 12 years, the level of satisfaction with local public schools had increased.

Nearly 67 percent, or two of every three respondents, gave their local schools an A or a B, compared with 51 percent in 2000, 59 percent in 1994 and 63 percent in 1992.

"There could be a lot of explanations for that," Schrader said. "More people are putting more emphasis on their schools, or there's just better teacher education -- producing better teachers and better administrators, and communities may be pulling behind schools more than they used to."

In a geographic breakdown, 29 percent of northeast Kansans gave A's to their public schools, a larger percentage than any other region.

The Kansas Legislature scored the lowest grades, with 34 percent giving it a C, 24 percent a D and 16.6 percent an F.

"That could potentially be people being influenced by the media and teachers groups that suggest they are doing the best they can, and they are underfunded," Schrader said.

Sebelius' score

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' highest percentages were B's and C's, 26 and 33 percent respectively. Five percent of respondents gave her an F.

Kansans surveyed also said they thought their teachers were underpaid and public schools were underfunded.

Forty-seven percent said they would support a tax increase to better fund school budgets, while 36 percent opposed a tax increase. The rest were undecided.

The top suggestions for improving schools were to offer more summer and after-school programs (88 percent support); require mentoring and assistance to new or substandard teachers (82 percent); giving parents more say in school decision-making (78 percent); offering higher salaries to teachers in challenging locations (76 percent); and increasing preschool programs (68 percent).

The only suggestion opposed by a majority of 56 percent of respondents was a voucher system.

Asked about the federal government's No Child Left Behind law, more than 45 percent gave an unfavorable response, compared with 30 percent favoring the measure.

About the survey

The survey, which is patterned after the national Gallup poll on public education, was done by mailing out questionnaires to random addresses obtained through a statistical research company. Previous surveys were done over the telephone.

Of the 3,000 surveys mailed in February, 523 were returned with usable data, officials said.

Schrader said the polling-by-mail method was less expensive, and an increasing number of people were reluctant to answer questions over the telephone. He said he didn't know if the mail method skewed the results.

The survey was financed by Emporia State, the Jones Institute and the Kansas Department of Education.

Survey results reveal geographic splits
Kansans were asked by researchers at Emporia State University to grade public schools in their community, among other questions. Their responses broken down by geography:
A B C D F Not sure
Region (percent)
Northwest 25.0 53.1 18.8 3.1 0.0 0.0
Southwest 8.7 60.9 13.0 8.7 0.0 8.7
North Central 18.5 52.3 23.1 4.6 0.0 1.5
South Central 16.0 55.5 23.5 3.4 0.8 0.8
Northeast 29.1 46.3 17.6 2.6 1.8 2.6
Southeast 14.3 45.2 33.3 2.4 0.0 4.8
Source: Kansans' Attitudes Toward Education survey

Commenting has been disabled for this item.