Poll Indicates Public Support For Education
Washington--If further federal spending cuts are necessary, Americans would rather see them made in social services and defense than in education programs.
This is one finding of a new national poll on education and five other topics conducted for the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation by the polling firm, Decision Making Information. The foundation is an offshoot of the conservative political fund-raising organization, the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress.
American voters, according to the poll, prefer that additional cuts be made in social services, defense, and education, in that order.
The telephone poll of a random sample of 1,000 American voters was conducted in November, two weeks after President Reagan asked for an additional 12 percent in federal budget cuts. In addition to education, the respondents were asked their views on the economy, family and social issues, government, courts, and national defense.
Paul M. Weyrich, president of the foundation, said he was not surprised that respondents preferred defense cuts over further education cuts.
"This conforms to my own point of view," he noted. "I believe the Pentagon is another bureaucracy that has all the same problems of any bureacracy, and it needs reforming."
The respondents were less favorably disposed toward education in an open-ended question about the schools themselves; in their responses, those polled expressed familiar criticisms of the way schools are run.
Asked to name the major problem in education today, respondents most commonly cited "lack of quality," complaining that there is "not enough basic instruction," and "children do not learn."
Twenty-five percent gave the "lack of quality" response as their first choice.
Lack of discipline, lack of funding, problems with teachers (their methods, competence, age, and strikes), and rising costs were the next most often-cited problems.
Fifty-seven percent of the respondents favored a $250 tuition tax credit (the sum allowed for in a bill pending before Congress), while 39 percent opposed it.
Mr. Weyrich, when asked how he reconciled these results with the recent overwhelming defeat of a tuition tax-credit proposal in Washington, noted that the District of Columbia proposal was for a larger amount and suggested that respondents did not believe the smaller $250 credit would directly affect them or raise their taxes.
Among other results of the poll:
78 percent of those polled believe that taxpayers should have a chance to review textbooks before they are used in classrooms.
49 percent believe that the federal government has too great a role in educational policy; 46 percent say "too little" or "not enough."
66 percent say the states' role in educational policy is "too little'' or "not enough"; 27 percent say it is too large.
More than 80 percent say students should pass a minimum-competency exam before being allowed to graduate from high school.
48 percent say the public schools' response to parental concerns about courses, textbooks, and facilities is either "good" or "excellent."
55 percent favor removing issues like school busing and school prayer from the jurisdiction of federal courts.