School & District Management Opinion

Poll Shows Support for Vergara Restrictions

By Charles Taylor Kerchner — June 26, 2014 3 min read
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A public opinion poll released Thursday shows that a large majority of Californians supports the restrictions on tenure and due process that were the subject of the recent Vergara decision. 62% said they agreed with the judge’s decision in the case, although only 10% said that they had read a good deal about it.

When presented with statements supporting or opposing “Last In, First Out” layoff provisions, 68% opposed laying off talented younger teachers in order to provide job security to senior teachers. 61% opposed any teacher tenure provision “because the policy makes it extremely difficulty to fire poorly performing teachers.” However, when the question was asked differently, 38% said that two years was too soon to award tenure, and 35% said that there should be no tenure at all. 21% thought that the two-year tenure window was the right amount of time or too short.

The poll results give comfort to those who declare California’s public education system in decline and something less than rousing support for recent reforms, particularly the Common Core of State Standards.

48% of the registered voters (50% of parents) in the Policy Analysis for California Education and the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education poll said that public schools in the state have gotten worse over the last few years. Only 12% of voters and 15% of parents gave schools an A or B grade.

After the state’s need for jobs and its current drought, education ranked third in the list of challenges facing California, and 64% of respondents said that the state should spend more on schools.

The poll casts a hard light on the state’s teacher unions; 49% said they had a negative impact on the quality of education in California. Only 31% said their influence was positive. (20% of respondents were either public or private sector union members, 19% were teachers or in a family that included one.)

The generally negative opinions rubbed off on incumbent officeholders. Gov. Jerry Brown got solid support, a 59% job approval rating, compared with a 53% positive rating for President Barack Obama. But Brown’s approval rating dropped to 45% for his handling of public education in California.

Although polls this early in the campaign are notoriously unreliable in predicting final outcomes, the 1,005 registered voters in the PACE/USC poll gave encouragement to the campaign of Marshall Tuck, the challenger in the Superintendent of Public Instruction race. When asked who they would vote for today, 27% said they would vote for State Superintendent Tom Torlakson, and 16% for Tuck. A whopping 57% said they were undecided.

But after being shown a TV ad for each candidate, Tuck closed the gap. Among all voters he was favored by 36% against Torlakson’s 38%. Among parents, Tuck led, 40% to 35%. (The television ad question was asked only of the poll’s 951 English Language respondents.)

Democratic Gov. Brown was a clear favorite to defeat his Republican opponent, Neel Kashkari: 50% to 26%.

The relatively negative picture of California public schools is coupled with relatively shaky support for the state’s adoption of the Common Core of State Standards. 47% of respondents said they knew something about the new standards (58% of parents), and 44% said they had a negative opinion of them, compared with 38 % who said they had a positive impression.

Fewer respondents said they knew about the California’s new Local Control Funding Formula; about 24% of all respondents and 28% of parents said that had heard or read a good bit of a little about it. Of these, 47% said they had a somewhat or very positive impression, and 30% were negatively inclined.

And 64% of respondents said they supported the requirement that districts work with parents to determine the allocation of resources.

Respondents generally liked charter schools, thought that they did a better job than traditional public schools, and thought that their number should be increased.

And they supported the idea of making pre-school available to four year olds, but opposed a small income tax increase to pay for additional preschool.

The opinions expressed in On California are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.