PPIC survey: State divided on charter schools

May 3, 2019 Staff Writer

A majority of Californians support teacher strikes and more funding for education, but Californians are evenly split on how they feel about charter schools, according to results from a statewide survey released April 24 by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Californians hold mixed views on charter schools, with 49 percent of adults in favor and 46 percent opposed. Support is somewhat higher among public school parents, with 59 percent in favor and 38 percent opposed. Across racial/ethnic groups, Latinos (51%) and whites (50%) are more likely than Asian Americans (43%) and African Americans (36%) to favor charter schools in general.

Overwhelming majorities (75% adults, 81% public school parents) say it is very important or somewhat important for parents in low-income areas to have the option of sending their children to charter schools. However, 64 percent of adults and 75 percent of public school parents say they are very concerned or somewhat concerned about charters diverting state funding away from traditional local public schools. Majorities of adults across all regions express this view, with those in Los Angeles (71%) being the most likely to express concern.

“Charter public schools get mixed reviews,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO, in a press release. “Many Californians say it is important to have the option of a charter school, but there are concerns about the fiscal impacts on traditional public schools.”

Following the March passage of Senate Bill 126, which requires more transparency in charter school operations, nine in 10 adults say it is very or somewhat important for charter schools to operate with the same transparency and accountability as traditional public schools.

Most want governor to make K–12 education a priority

Three-quarters of Californians (75% adults, 76% of likely voters) say Gov. Gavin Newsom should place a very high priority or a high priority on the state’s K–12 public education system. At least seven in 10 adults across all regions and across age, education, income, and racial/ethnic groups say K–12 should be a high or very high priority. Most Californians (55% adults, 60% likely voters) would like Newsom to change to different K–12 policies, rather than continue those of his predecessor, Jerry Brown. Solid majorities of Republicans (77%) and independents (61%) want a change, compared to less than half of Democrats (46%).

Majorities of Californians support Newsom’s K–12 budget proposals to allocate $3 billion in one-time spending to pay down the California State Teachers’ Retirement System’s unfunded liabilities (58% of adults approving) and provide $576 million to expand special education services and programs (70%). However, Democrats and independents are more likely than Republicans to approve.

“Most Californians say Governor Newsom should place a high priority on K–12 public education, but there are deep partisan divides on whether new policies are needed and which ones,” Baldassare said.

Most support governor’s preschool and kindergarten proposals

Asked how important preschool is to academic success, an overwhelming majority of adults say it is either very important (46%) or somewhat important (32%). Solid majorities of adults (63%) and public school parents (81%) think the state should fund voluntary preschool for all 4-year-olds.

In his proposed budget, Newsom allocates $125 million to expand full-day, full-year preschool to all eligible low-income 4-year-olds and $750 million in one-time funds to increase full-day kindergarten programs. Both proposals are favored by majorities of Californians, with 64 percent supporting the preschool spending plan and 65 percent supporting the kindergarten proposal. As with the K–12 proposals noted above, Democrats and independents are more likely than Republicans to approve.

“Early childhood education is important to most Californians, and solid majorities support the governor’s spending plans to expand preschool and full-day kindergarten,” Baldassare said.

Solid majorities support teachers’ strikes for higher pay

As teachers in multiple school districts across the state have gone on strike seeking higher pay, 61 percent of adults and 58 percent of public school parents say teachers’ salaries in their community are too low. Solid majorities in the San Francisco Bay Area (70% of adults) and Los Angeles (65%) hold this view, as do more than half of adults in the Inland Empire (58%), Central Valley (53%), and Orange/San Diego (53%). Solid majorities approve of public school teachers striking for higher pay (61% adults, 70% public school parents). At least half of adults in all regions approve, with Los Angeles (70%) and the San Francisco Bay Area (62%) expressing the highest levels of support.

Nearly half of adults (48%) and a majority of public school parents (57%) say a teacher shortage is currently a big problem in California’s K–12 schools. Far fewer Californians (31%) and public school parents (32%) believe that teacher quality is a big problem.

“Majorities say that teachers’ salaries are too low and that they support teachers’ striking for more pay,” Baldassare said. “Californians are more concerned about teacher shortages than quality.”

Most support ‘split roll’ property tax, bond measure to fund schools

A ballot measure eligible for the 2020 ballot would amend Proposition 13 to tax commercial (but not residential) properties at their current market rate, creating a “split roll” property tax system. Asked about a potential ballot measure that would make this change and direct some of the new revenue to K–12 public schools, majorities of adults (56%) and likely voters (54%) approve. In PPIC’s January survey, which did not mention directing the revenue to any specific purpose, 47 percent of adults and 49 percent of likely voters approved.

Today, most adults (62%) and likely voters (57%) say they would vote yes on a state bond measure to pay for school construction projects. However, when asked about a state ballot measure that would lower the threshold — from two-thirds to 55 percent — for passing local parcel taxes for public schools, less than half of Californians (44% adults, 39% likely voters) approve.

“Majorities of California likely voters favor a state bond and higher taxes on commercial properties to raise school revenues, while lowering the local tax threshold receives less support,” Baldassare said.

Parents value college, worry about affordability

Asked to name the most important goal for California’s K–12 public schools, roughly a quarter of all adults say teaching students life skills (26%), and a quarter say preparing students for college (24%). Among public school parents, however, 44 percent say preparing students for college is the most important goal.

An overwhelming majority of parents want their youngest child to get a college degree. Nearly one-half of California parents (46%) say they hope their youngest child obtains a graduate degree after college, and another third (33%) hope their youngest child attains at least a four-year college degree. However, a strong majority say they are either very worried (45%) or somewhat worried (34%) about being able to afford a college education for their youngest child.

“Many parents say that the goal of K–12 public education should be college and, while most want their children to go to college, they worry about being able to afford the costs,” Baldassare said.

More key findings

• Californians are concerned about college readiness for students in low-income areas. Many adults (43%) and public school parents (56%) say they are very concerned that students in low-income areas are less likely than other students to be ready for college when they finish high school.

• Many worry about federal immigration enforcement’s effect on students.
Solid majorities of Californians (61% adults, 71% public school parents) are either very concerned or somewhat concerned that increased federal immigration enforcement efforts will affect undocumented students and their families in their local public schools.

• Possibility of mass shooting at local schools causes widespread concern. More than two-thirds of Californians (70% adults, 80% public school parents) are very concerned or somewhat concerned about a shooting in their local schools.

• Opinions are mixed on local revenue measures to support public schools.
A majority of adults (60%) and likely voters (56%) would vote yes on a local bond measure for school construction. However, support for a potential local parcel tax for public schools is below the two-thirds threshold needed to pass (46% adults, 44% likely voters).

• Most support Common Core and the state’s K–12 school funding formula.
Majorities of Californians approve of the Common Core State Standards (51% adults, 70% public school parents) and the Local Control Funding Formula (67% adults, 77% public school parents).

Read the full report from PPIC.

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