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School-Tax Hikes Backed, Poll Finds

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The percentage of Americans willing to pay higher taxes to improve schools has increased "significantly" over the past five years, according to the Gallup Organization's annual poll on education.

Sixty-four percent of those polled this year said they would be willing to pay more taxes to help improve the quality of the nation's schools, up from 58 percent in 1983.

The survey indicates that many Americans believe improvements are needed. For example, 45 percent of this year's respondents gave their public schools a grade of C, D, or F. Only 40 percent gave their local schools an A or B, compared with 43 percent last year.

Still, the proportion of Americans who believe their schools are improving is growing. Some 29 percent of those polled this year said the schools in their community have improved over the last five years, compared with 25 percent last year.

Although fewer respondents this year than last say they believe their local schools have "gotten worse" over the same period, nearly one out of five still believe the quality of their schools has declined.

The 20th annual "Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools," sponsored by Phi Delta Kappa, the professional education fraternity, was conducted last April. The 2,118 persons surveyed were adults age 18 and older and were interviewed in their homes.

Drugs Top List of Problems

For the third year in a row, drug abuse topped the list of perceived problems facing schools.

When asked to identify the "biggest problem with which the local schools must deal," 32 percent of those polled pointed to the drug issue. The second biggest problem--mentioned by 19 percent of the respondents--was "lack of discipline," followed by "lack of proper financial support," cited by 12 percent.

Other topics addressed by the survey include:

Aids education. The overwhelming majority of those polled--90 percent--believe that local schools should develop aids-education programs. Of those, 6 percent said lessons should begin before age 5; 40 percent said they should begin between ages 5 and 9; another 40 percent, between the ages of 10 and 12; and 11 percent, age 13 and over.

More than three out of four of the respondents agreed that aids-prevention lessons should include discussion of "safe sex" methods.

Latch-key children. Seventy percent of those surveyed said schools should offer before- and after-school programs for children whose parents leave for work early or do not return home from work un8til late in the day. Of those who favor such programs, 49 percent believe they should be paid for by parents, and 34 percent believe they should be supported by taxes.

Teaching. Ninety percent of the respondents said that public schools need to attract "more capable students" into the teaching profession. In addition, the vast majority of those polled--86 percent--said that teachers should be required to pass periodic competency tests in their subject area.

When those surveyed were asked if they would like to have a child of theirs become a public-school teacher, 59 percent said yes and 31 percent said no.

Racial integration. Although a majority of the respondents--55 percent--said racial integration has improved the quality of education received by black students, only 35 percent said that integration has improved education for white students.

When asked whether more or less should be done to integrate schools, 37 percent said more should be done, 23 percent said less, and 31 percent said no change was needed.

Corporal Punishment: Half of the respondents said they support the practice of spanking elementary-school students who do not respond well to other forms of punishment; 45 percent said they disapprove.

Copies of the report are available only in quantities of 25 or more. The price is $10 for the first 25 copies, and 25 cents for each additional copy. Orders should be sent to Gallup Poll, Phi Delta Kappa, P.O. Box 789, Bloomington, Ind. 47402-0789.--br

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