California: 73% want more funding for ESL, but not local taxes

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Apr 27 12:25:45 UTC 2007

Poll reflects unease over education policy

By Sharon Noguchi
Mercury News
San Jose Mercury News
Article Launched:04/26/2007 01:34:23 AM PDT

Californians believe the state should boost funding for K-12 education but
don't want to raise local taxes for schools, according to a statewide poll
released Wednesday. The poll by the San Francisco-based Public Policy
Institute of California indicates that voters are clearly dissatisfied
with the way Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature have handled
education issues. The governor, dealing this year with issues such as
health care and prison overcrowding, has postponed for a year tackling
school woes such as equalizing fund allocations between poor and rich

According to the poll, Schwarzenegger's overall job approval rating of 53
percent plummeted to 36 percent when focused on his handling of K-12
education. And legislators fared worse. While 38 percent approve of
lawmakers' overall job performance, the poll found only 29 percent are
satisfied with their handling of education. "While education remains a
critical issue for most Californians, they clearly see a lack of progress
and appear to be questioning the return on all the investment and activity
of recent years," said Mark Baldassare, president and chief executive
officer of the Public Policy Institute.

In the past decade, voters have faced education-related measures on just
about every ballot and have passed nearly $45 billion in school bonds. But
in the institute's new survey, education fell to third, behind immigration
and the economy, as the most pressing problems facing the state. It was
ranked second last year. An overwhelming 87 percent of respondents said
they believed K-12 education needs major or minor changes, but there was
less agreement on how to finance reform.

Yet respondents expressed more confidence in their local schools. Asked to
rate their neighborhood school, 16 percent awarded an A, 36 percent a B,
28 percent a C, 9 percent a D and 4 percent an F. (Seven percent said they
didn't know.) The survey found an appetite for more educational reforms,
even those that would cost money. Seventy-five percent said they would
favor spending more money on education if it were used efficiently. Only
21 percent were opposed. Seventy-three percent favored providing extra
assistance to English-language learners, and 72 percent would add
counselors, mentors and social workers to improve the graduation rate in
low-income areas.  When asked about the controversial high-school exit
exam, 72 percent said they approve of it being a graduation requirement.

A majority said providing art and music instruction in K-12 was very
important. Forty-eight percent of respondents said the state did not
provide enough funding for their local schools. An equal percentage said
the state must both increase funding and use funds more wisely, reflecting
recent studies that recommended the same strategy. While 66 percent said
they would vote for bonds to pay for more school construction, 48 percent
said they would not increase property taxes to pay for schools, vs. 47
percent who said they would. "They are not sure that what we're spending
now is being used wisely,"  Baldassare said. "Nor did they see a road map
for what would need to happen to see student improvement."

Respondents recognized the challenge in educating poor students.
Three-quarters said schools in low-income areas should get more money than
schools in other areas - and should provide additional training to
teachers. Nearly as many said schools in those areas should pay teachers
higher salaries than schools in other areas.

The poll was conducted by telephone from April 3-17. Pollsters surveyed
2,500 adults and conducted interviews in six languages. The poll has a
margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.


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