Survey Finds Strong Public Support for More Technology in Schools

By Andrew Trotter — July 09, 1997 3 min read

Most American voters would support a federal tax increase if it were earmarked for computer and other technology in the nation’s schools, according to survey released here at the Milken Family Foundation National Education Conference.

The public is divided, however, over whether technology is being introduced to schools at the right speed or not fast enough, the survey found.

Teachers are somewhat more eager than the general public to quicken the pace of technological change. But few in either group think technology is being introduced to schools too quickly.

The survey, conducted in May and June by Peter D. Hart Research Associates Inc., was paid for by the Santa Monica, Calif.-based Milken Family Foundation.

It consisted of three telephone poll of representative nationwide samples of more than 1,000 registered voters, 300 public school teachers and administrators, and 300 public school students from grades 6 to 12. The national poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percent; the teacher/administrator poll, 5.7 percent; and the student poll, 5.8 percent.

Among the findings is that over 90 percent of voters think school that are well-equipped with technology have a major advantage over other schools in access to information and in preparing students for entering the workforce.

“People understand that the world has changed,” Geoffrey D. Garin, the president of Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, a subsidiary of the Washington-based Hart Research Associates, said at last month’s conference.

Sixty-one percent of voters polled said they would pay $100 more in federal taxes a year to meet schools’ technology needs--more than twice the percentage who would not.

More respondents supported using tobacco, corporate, or sale taxes to generate the needed revenue than favored using bond measures or property taxes.

Mr. Garin concluded that the public is “willing to pay” to increase the use of educational technology. “If the leaders lead, the public will follow,” he said.

But another conference speaker, Lewis C. Solmon, an economist and the president of the Milken Institute for Jobs & Capital Formation, said he was not ready to reach that conclusion from the survey data.

He said it’s unlikely that revenue from an increase in the tobacco tax would be put toward educational technology. He also noted that only 10 percent of those polled strongly favor increasing local bond measures or property taxes for the purpose of adding computers to schools.

“I don’t think we can be overly complacent or confident based on these numbers. Besides [needing] money, we need to educate the public,” Mr. Solmon said.

Among other survey findings:

  • Forty percent of voters say schools are moving at the right speed to increase the use of computers and up-to-date technology; 43 percent say they are not moving fast enough.
  • Among teachers, meanwhile, 37 percent say schools are moving at the right speed, and 57 percent ay not fast enough.

The three-day Milken Family Foundation conference, which took place June 26-28, brought together a range of educational and political leaders from 35 states, as well as recipients of the foundation’s national educator awards.

The annual awards are given to teacher and principals who demonstrate excellence in teaching, leadership, or community engagement.

This year’s 138 winners, like their predecessors, each received awards of $25,000. The foundation is trying to use the awards and a range of other initiatives to build national and state networks of educators and policymakers.

One initiative, the Milken Exchange on Educational Technology, begun in February, is intended to assist states by consolidating information on technology policy and budget issues on a World Wide Web site.

It was also announced at the conference that Education Week will receive funding from the Milken Family Foundation to prepare an annual report on the state of technology in the nation’s schools. The report will present state-by-state data, research findings, case studies, and other reporting to highlight trend and key issues. Education Week plans to release the report in November.

A version of this article appeared in the July 09, 1997 edition of Education Week