Poll: Voters like school reforms, but not school reformers

These poll numbers relate specifically to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s efforts to reform education and the budget in that state, but I’d be willing to bet they mirror public sentiment in a lot of places, including Georgia. From Quinnipiac University, via Jim Geraghty at NRO:

New Jersey voters approve 50 – 46 percent of the way Gov. Christopher Christie is handling the state budget, but disapprove 52 – 44 percent of the way he is handling education. Gov. Christie’s proposal to limit school superintendent salaries is a good way to balance the budget, 69 percent of voters say, while 27 percent say it is meddling.

By a 64 – 16 percent margin, voters have a favorable opinion of public school teachers, but by 45 – 30 percent they have an unfavorable opinion of the New Jersey Education Association. Teachers unions play a negative rather than a positive role in improving education, voters say 51 – 39 percent.

New Jersey voters favor merit pay for good teachers 69 – 27 percent and support Christie’s proposal to limit teacher tenure 62 – 32 percent.

So, to recap:

  • Voters like public school teachers but don’t think highly of their unions (or, in Georgia’s case, professional organizations).
  • Voters think it’s a good idea to pay good teachers better than not-so-good teachers, and that teachers should not have lifetime job security.
  • Voters are fairly certain that school administrators are overpaid.

And yet, in spite of all that, they think a governor who pursues policies that align with these sentiments is doing a good job on the budget, but not on education. Go figure.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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16 comments Add your comment


April 21st, 2011
2:31 pm

Georgia teacher’s professional organization doesn’t provide any muscle for the teachers. To blame the organization is nothing more than a red herring.

that's goofy

April 21st, 2011
2:44 pm

Many in the GOP felt that it was OK for TARP money being used for CEO bonuses because you have to pay to attract the best – but the same isn’t true for Superintendents. Interesting.

That being said – I agree that the pencil pushers are overpaid. Cherokee County’s former Director of Communication was paid 100K. The layers of bureaucracy in the local BOE is ridiculous. Forget the teachers and lifetime job security – take a look in the administrative offices.

I think most people think teachers do a good job. Unfortunately it is the (very few) teachers with issues that receive the most attention.

Bryan G.

April 21st, 2011
3:07 pm

The problem is that while everyone likes the idea of merit pay for teachers, the unions (in union states) won’t allow it. They want everyone paid the same and paid by experience – talent be damned.

Also, everyone says we should pay teachers more in general. I kind of have a hard time feeling that way considering they work 9 or 10 months a year from 8-3. If you figure out what a teacher makes based on a per month basis, it’s pretty damn good.

that's goofy

April 21st, 2011
3:27 pm

I know very few classroom teachers that work 8-3. Most work a minimum of 40 at school and beyond that on nights and weekends. (The 40 hours in not including the 30 minute lunch) Teachers could work more months but that would require a pay increase and parents and business would fight it.

The issue with merit pay is that the formula used is flawed. The merit pay is based on the performance of students on an end of the year test. The test does not measure where the students finished in relation to where they began. Unfortunately most politicians fail to understand education is not one size fits all.

Imagine a supervisor paid and evaluated solely on the performance of his employees once a year. Also the supervisor cannot have any say in hiring or firing employees. Would this be a fair assessment of the supervisors ability? No, Yet that is the formula used for teacher merit pay.

Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights.....

April 21st, 2011
3:52 pm

With my upbringing in a wild urban environment in the Midwest and knowing the insane and sometimes dangerous life-threating crap that teachers have to put up with from psychotic students, parents, I can’t necessarily argue against teachers being rewarded for hanging in there, especially in some of the wild blackboard jungles that they have to try and work to educate students in.

Bart Abel

April 21st, 2011
4:13 pm

Unions have raised the incomes of all Americans, not only those belonging to unions.

Up to me? I’d impose year-round, all-day schooling and pay teachers $100,000 per year. We’re the greatest country in the world. If we want to stay that way, then we’d better invest time and money in public education.

Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights.....

April 21st, 2011
4:22 pm

Man, I went to school in an environment with kids that came from broken homes where one or both parents were on drugs, where kids might have been in and out of homeless shelters for a large part of the year, where kids may have been shuffled back and forth between an abusive home and foster care much of the time. I went to school with kids that sometimes lived out on the streets for days at a time and only came to school to get in out of the cold and get a hot meal. At my high school, one of the Vice Principals was repeatedly targeted with break-ins to her car and her home, while one of the discipinary deans was hospitalized after having his leg broken in an attack during a weeklong outbreak of violence in which the city police department had to be brought in to help the school’s 15-member security force lockdown the school due to the 30-50 fights a day that were breaking out between rival gangs (between Blood-related & Crip-related gangs) who were fighting for control of the school that week only a few years after the White-supremacist street gangs had been run out of the area during another extended period of on-campus gang-related violence in which the city police had to be brought in to help keep a race riot from breaking out, a riot whom the kids with emotional and behavioral problems in the on-campus “Alternative School” tried to ignite by breaking out windows with chairs that they were throwing out of the third story of the administrative building. Sorry, but any teacher who comes to work day after day in THAT kind of rambunctious environment not only deserves to be rewarded with increased pay, benefits and job “security”, but also deserves a freakin’ medal.

that's goofy

April 21st, 2011
4:51 pm

Florida experimented with year round schools – adding 8 weeks onto the end of the year. After 1 year the program was cut due to budget issues, parent complaints and most importantly: Disney throwing a temper tantrum.

The complaints didn’t come from the parents at the year round schools – it came from others that didn’t want to change the “traditional” model.


April 21st, 2011
5:28 pm

When a poll is 50-46, you can’t discount the 46 just because it is a few points less. This is not a game where you keep score.

Michael H. Smith

April 21st, 2011
8:07 pm

Taken from Reason . com

School Sucks: The Movie
A review of The Cartel, a documentary about school choice—and the lack thereof.

Katherine Mangu-Ward | April 23, 2010

A Newark mother runs out of the room to shout “God is an awesome God!” toward the end of The Cartel, a new documentary about school choice. She bolts because she doesn’t want to rub her good fortune in the faces of dozens of weeping children and stoic parents around her. Her child has just won, by lottery, a slot in Newark’s acclaimed North Star Academy Charter school and thus escaped the state’s (and nation’s) expensive, execrable public schools. And so she celebrates. But as the lottery winds down and the organizers call out the 37th runner up, we see another mother, comforting a child with tears streaming down her face. She hasn’t made the cut, and her kid is stuck.

The Cartel is a first film for Bob Bowdon, a TV journalist and occasional on-screen reporter for the satirical Onion News Network. As you might expect from an Onion reporter, Bowdon has a keen eye for the ridiculous—and the public school monopoly offers him a lot of material to work with. Focusing on New Jersey, which spends more per pupil than any other state, The Cartel contains the usual litany of massive spending, academic failure, administrative bloat, and corruption apparent to anyone who has scratched the surface of the nation’s schools. But it also has some unusual moments, including a tally of luxury cars in the New Jersey Board of Education parking lot, and a casual revelation that dropout rates are so high that New Jersey ninth graders outnumber the state’s 10th, 11th, and 12th graders put together.


Extended Cut! Gov. Christie Praises The Cartel



April 21st, 2011
8:55 pm

We know Kyle is too busy making up new stories to really add substance to a goofy story already written……BUT what is the Auto fuel of the future, that gives him a reason to state we need tolls everywhere to make up for the coming Gas tax shortage ?

We also know the only reasonable form of electricity Kyle thinks is the future is Nuclear, because it is safe and reliable according to him.

National / World News 7:01 p.m. Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nuclear reactor in Ga. shuts down abruptly
The Associated Press

ATLANTA — A nuclear reactor at Plant Vogtle in eastern Georgia has been taken out of service until authorities determine why it unexpectedly shut down.

The Atlanta-based Southern Co. reported Thursday that the Unit 1 reactor at Plant Vogtle automatically shut down Wednesday evening. Officials say the shutdown procedure, called a scram, was completed without incident.

Nuclear reactors are designed to shut down if automatic monitoring systems detect conditions that could be unsafe. Southern Co. spokesman Alyson Fuqua said it is not immediately clear what prompted the shutdown. No problems have been reported.

Fuqua said the shutdown was triggered by equipment related to an electrical turbine. The company was not certain when the reactor would start producing power again.

So I guess he has really never come up with the alternative to GAS, and of course Nuclear at home is both safe and reliable.

So…..let’s talk about something the Georgia GOP is really bad about …Education !

that's goofy

April 21st, 2011
9:10 pm

In most states – Charter Schools are public schools. They teach the same material, take the same tests and hire teachers with the same qualifications. The difference: They hold a lottery to see who gets in and parents, students, teachers are all held accountable.

I have a friend in FL that teaches at a Fundamental School – it operates the same as a charter school but it is a regular public school.

I’m going on recollection but without oversight (and State Standards) Charter schools fail at a rate of more than 60%. Charter schools that operate for profit fail at a higher rate – then the kids return to the public school but the money doesn’t (until next year)/

Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights.....

April 21st, 2011
10:05 pm

Michael H. Smith April 21st, 2011 8:07 pm
“and a casual revelation that dropout rates are so high that New Jersey ninth graders outnumber the state’s 10th, 11th, and 12th graders put together.”

Sounds like some of the urban and rural high schools in my hometown and home state the Midwest. My freshman class entered into my high school with close to 1200 students, but graduated only 230 students out of that same class.


April 22nd, 2011
9:14 am

Kyle, you’ve been writing this column for a while now. And you haven’t figured out most people hold contradictory ideas about public policy?


April 22nd, 2011
10:33 am

Speaking as someone who lives in NJ, Christie has no one to blame but himself for this. He spent his first year in office relentlessly attacking teachers, chewing them out at town hall meetings, and calling them every bad name in the book. Truth is no one in this state likes the NJEA, but in the face of Christie’s attacks, the teacher’s went scrambling to the union because the union seemed to be the only one standing up for them. Christie has been trying to change his message more recently, saying he love’s teachers but hate’s the unions, but it may just be too late to change his own image as a universal teacher-hater.


April 22nd, 2011
12:05 pm

I wish you all would watch the movie, “Waiting for Superman”. It pretty much gives you a great idea of why schools are the mess they are.