School & District Management

Knight Survey Finds Solid Public Support for Schools

By Catherine Gewertz — March 29, 2000 2 min read

Six in 10 Americans believe their public schools are doing a good or excellent job, but that opinion varies depending on the community in which they live, a national survey has found.

For More Information

Read or download a copy of the Community Indicators Project (requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader). Or call (305) 908-2600 for more information about ordering the report.

In the survey released this month by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 63 percent of respondents gave their public schools positive ratings, holding them in higher esteem than their local governments (55 percent positive). Other areas of local government received higher ratings: the fire department (90 percent), public libraries (79 percent positive), and the police department (74 percent).

The survey by the Miami-based foundation sought to gauge the opinions of Americans on a variety of issues. The results will be used to help the philanthropy shape its grantmaking decisions in the 26 cities where the Knight brothers have published newspapers.

Between 1990 and 1999, the Knight Foundation made 2,143 grants totaling $150 million in those cities, focusing on improving the quality of life in seven areas: arts and culture, children/social welfare, citizenship, community development, education, homelessness, and literacy.

Those areas formed the basis of the survey. Pollsters telephoned a representative sampling of 17,000 participants last year: 1,200 in various towns across the country and an additional 500 to 1,300 citizens of each of the 26 “Knight Foundation communities.”

‘Pretty Good’ Ratings

Evans Witt, the pollster who oversaw the survey, said the findings suggest that while Americans are concerned about public education in general, and consider it to be one of the most important issues of the day, they are fairly satisfied with their own local schools.

“A 63 rating is pretty good,” he said. “Presidents of the United States would be thrilled to have a 63 percent job-approval rating.”

Positive evaluations of public schools varied by community, a finding Mr. Witt said reflects local residents’ knowledge of and experience with their own school systems.

Of 11 problem issues that pollsters asked respondents about, educational quality ranked low.

Only 39 percent of respondents nationally said public school quality was a problem in their own communities, compared with those who cited the following as problems: too little citizen participation in improving the community (62 percent), not enough affordable housing (55 percent), unemployment (54 percent), and illiteracy (48 percent).

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the March 29, 2000 edition of Education Week as Knight Survey Finds Solid Public Support for Schools


School & District Management Live Event EdWeek Leadership Symposium
Education Week's Premier Leadership Event for K12 School & District Leaders.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Districts Are Spending Millions on ‘Unproven’ Air Purifiers
Schools are buying technology that academic air-quality experts warn can lull them into a false sense of security or even harm kids.
Lauren Weber, Kaiser Health News & Christina Jewett, Kaiser Health News
13 min read
A student listens to a presentation in Health class at Windsor Locks High School in Windsor Locks, Conn. on March 18, 2021.
A student listens to a presentation in health class at Windsor Locks High School in Windsor Locks, Conn.
Jessica Hill/AP
School & District Management Teachers' Mental Health Has Suffered in the Pandemic. Here's How Districts Can Help
Teachers’ stress and anxiety have soared during the pandemic, making it critical for districts to look after their mental health.
9 min read
Woman working at computer.
School & District Management Remote Learning Isn't Going Away. Will It Create Separate—and Unequal—School Systems?
Demand for remote learning is likely to continue in the fall, raising concerns about the quality of education virtual students will receive.
9 min read
Veronica Esquivel, 10, finishes her homework after her virtual school hours while her brother Isias Esquivel sits in front of his computer on Feb. 10, 2021, at their residence in Chicago's predominantly Hispanic Pilsen neighborhood. Her mother, Rosa, worries that her diabetes and her husband's high blood pressure could put their lives at risk if their kids brought the coronavirus home from school.
Veronica Esquivel, 10, finishes her homework after virtual school, while her brother Isias Esquivel sits in front of his computer in their Chicago home in February. Their mother worried that sending them back to in-person learning would put her and her husband at risk for getting COVID-19.
Shafkat Anowar/AP
School & District Management Opinion Young People Have a Desire to Save Their World. How Can We Help?
Young people have an interest in learning and an innate desire to be part of saving society. Why do adults stand in the way?
Michael Fullan & Joanne Quinn
5 min read
Michael Fullan   FCG