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Poll: Arizonans value education, critical of system
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Poll: Arizonans value education, critical of system

Many in state say schools don't prepare kids for college, workforce

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Arizonans believe education is a critical, but that public schools are failing to prepare students for college or the workplace, according to a statewide poll released Tuesday.

Education was ranked among the top three issues that need to be addressed by the governor and state Legislature, 20 percent of the respondents of the Merrill/Morrison Institute poll said. That was just behind immigration at 24 percent, and jobs at 22 percent.

The Morrison Institute for Public Policy, a nonpartisan think tank at Arizona State University, found that Arizonans support education, but are critical of the current system.

Of the 600 Arizonans polled, 45 percent said they believe public schools are doing a good or excellent job at preparing students for college, while 41 percent said schools are doing a poor or very poor job.

When asked how they would rank the schools in preparing students for the workforce after high school, just 36 percent said the schools are doing and excellent or good job.

Respondents also weighed in on early-childhood education programs with 89 percent saying they are very important or important. Only 6 percent believe the programs are not important, the poll found.

The poll also found that two-thirds of Arizonans believe academic performance expectations are not high enough. Six percent said expectations are too high and 20 percent say expectations are about right.

In addition, nearly two-thirds of Arizonans — 64 percent— believe schools are
not putting enough emphasis on vocational education, and 60 percent said there is not enough emphasis on math and science, according to the poll’s findings.

“The high level of concern that Arizonans have about the quality of our education system demonstrates that people understand that we must improve public education in order for Arizona to realize its potential,” said poll director Bruce Merrill, a senior fellow at Morrison Institute for Public Policy, in a press release.

“Education directly affects our potential for economic development and general quality of life. The poll indicates that people understand the importance of giving students the training they will need to compete in a high-tech economic society. It also indicates that we need to put more emphasis on vocational education,” Merrill said.

As the Legislature prepares to go into session in January, these opinions from Arizonans regarding public education warrant some attention, David Daugherty, director of research at Morrison Institute for Public Policy, said in the release.

“The Legislature, in its attempts to balance the budget, has cut deeply into education funding while refusing to raise taxes to generate additional revenue. Clearly, in listening to the voice of the citizens in this research, it is incumbent upon legislators to find ways to repair the damage to the public education system and to begin improving it at numerous levels,” Daugherty said.

The statewide survey of heads of households was conducted Oct. 4 to Oct. 11. Fifty-nine percent of the 600 telephone interviews were conducted in Maricopa County, 17 percent in Pima County and 24 percent in Arizona’s other counties.

The margin of error for the statewide sample survey is plus or minus 4 percent.

Poll questions and responses

As you know, Arizona does not have enough state resources to do everything we would like. Keeping that in mind, what do you think is the biggest problem facing Arizona that the governor and the Legislature should be trying to do something about?

  • Immigration              24%
  • Jobs/economy           22%
  • Education                 20%
  • Other                        34%

Next, I would like to ask you to rate the job that Arizona’s public schools grades kindergarten through 12 are doing in preparing students. Would you say Arizona’s public schools are doing an excellent, good, poor or very poor job in preparing students:

… to enter college?

  • Excellent                             6%
  • Good                                  39%
  • Poor                                   30%
  • Very Poor                          11%
  • Don’t know/No opinion    14%

… to go directly into the workforce after high school

  • Excellent                            4%
  • Good                                 32%
  • Poor                                  35%
  • Very Poor                         12%
  • Don’t know/No opinion   17%

When thinking about preparing students for jobs that may be available to them in the future, do you think the public schools are putting about the right amount of emphasis, not enough emphasis or too much emphasis on vocational education?

  • The right amount                18%
  • Not enough                         64%
  • Too much                             5%
  • Don’t know/no opinion      13%

Thinking about our expectations about students’ academic performance in the public schools, do you think our expectations are about right, not high enough or too high?

  • About right                      20%
  • Not high enough              66%
  • Too high                            6%
  • Don’t know/no opinion     8%

Do you think the amount of emphasis that Arizona public schools place on teaching math and science is about right, not enough or too much?

  • About right                        23%
  • Not enough                       60%
  • Too much                            5%
  • Don’t know/no opinion     12%

How important do you think early childhood education programs such as preschool and kindergarten are in preparing students for later success in school? Would you say they are very important, somewhat important, not very important or not at all important?

  • Very important                   70%
  • Somewhat important          19%
  • Not very important               3%
  • Not at all important              3%
  • Don’t know/No opinion       5%

When the state Legislature convenes in January, it will have to make some tough decisions about spending state money. Is each of the following a very high, high, low, or very low priority for you personally?

Kindergarten through 12th grade education

  • Very high    51%
  • High            40%
  • Low              6% 
  • Very low       1%
  • Don't know   2%

Health care coverage for those living below the poverty level          

  • Very high    33%      
  • High            44%  
  • Low             18%    
  • Very low        3%      
  • Don't know    2%

Programs designed to help children from families living under the poverty level                     

  • Very high   32%   
  • High           48%  
  • Low           16%   
  • Very low      1%   
  • Don't know   3%

Law enforcement and public safety      

  • Very High   31%      
  • High           54%  
  • Low            11%    
  • Very low      2%       
  • Don't know  2%

The public universities (ASU, UA and NAU)                  

  • Very high   22%       
  • High          48%   
  • Low           24%     
  • Very low      4%         
  • Don't know  2%

Arizona’s prison system                  

  • Very high  11%     
  • High         37%   
  • Low          40%     
  • Very low     6%         
  • Don't know 6%

State parks and recreation                 

  • Very high    10%  
  • High           44%  
  • Low            40%   
  • Very low      4%   
  • Don't know  2%

Arts and culture                               

  • Very high     9%    
  • High           38%
  • Low           44% 
  • Very low      6%       
  • Don't know  3%

— 30 —

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