Equity & Diversity

Public Backs School Equity Efforts; Opinion Divided on ‘No Child’ Law

By Sean Cavanagh — July 14, 2004 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A strong majority of Americans say they support redirecting tax revenues to schools in poorer areas to bring greater equity to students, though the public also suspects that schools waste too much money, a nationwide survey has found.

See Also...

View the accompanying chart, “Mixed Responses.”

The poll by the Educational Testing Service found that 65 percent of respondents considered it appropriate to allocate tax money to poorer communities even if such revenue came from wealthier areas. Only 26 percent said reallocating the money was a mistake, while 9 percent were undecided.

A summary of “The Equity and Adequacy: Americans Speak on Public School Funding,” is available from the Educational Testing Service . (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

Among people from all economic backgrounds, “the concern about schools in low-income areas is at least as great as the concerns in their own area,” Allan Rivlin, one of the researchers who worked on the survey, said at a June 30 press conference. “People feel very strongly that there’s a real problem in terms of quality in low-income areas.”

The survey was conducted by Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart and the late Republican pollster Robert M. Teeter through phone interviews of 1,309 adults in May and June. The poll’s margin of error is 3 percentage points. It touched on a broad range of issues related to school finance and accountability—including the public’s view of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The survey found that 76 percent of all respondents and 74 percent of parents believed at least a “fair amount” of taxpayer money was being wasted in K-12 education. The poll also showed a reluctance to accept higher taxes, particularly at the local level. Fifty percent of those surveyed said state taxes for education should stay the same or be decreased; 62 percent said local taxes should be held steady or cut.

“The property tax has often come out as the least appealing tax, the one that people find the most arbitrary and unfair,” said Pete Sepp, a spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union, a watchdog organization in Alexandria, Va. Property taxes are the traditional mainstay of local funding for schools.

Yet few respondents believed their money was being squandered in the classroom. Only 7 percent said money was wasted on teacher salaries, and just 11 percent said too much was being spent on school supplies and facilities. Forty-six percent said that money was wasted on administrators’ salaries and benefits.

Kurt Landgraf, the president of the ETS, a private, nonprofit educational testing and research organization in Princeton, N.J., indicated his support for reducing public schools’ reliance on local property taxes, which he said hinders equity and fairness in education.

Split on Federal Reform

The survey, the fourth annual one commissioned by the ETS on public attitudes toward education, showed that 74 percent of respondents said the quality of public schools was a concern to them, when they were questioned about a number of education- and tax-related topics. By comparison, 79 percent ranked job availability as a concern; 77 percent said the amount they paid in federal taxes was a concern.

More Americans are aware of the No Child Left Behind Act than they were last year, the poll found. Of those questioned, 51 percent were at least aware of the law; in May 2003, only 34 percent knew of it.

The public was divided, however, on the law’s impact. Thirty-nine percent of respondents viewed it favorably, while 38 percent did not, with 23 percent undecided. In 17 “battleground” states for the 2004 presidential election, 40 percent of the respondents had an unfavorable opinion of President Bush’s signature education achievement, while 36 percent regarded the school improvement law favorably, with 24 percent offering no opinion.

Those 17 states were chosen on the basis of both narrow margins of victory in the 2000 election and current opinion polls of likely voters. They include Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, and Ohio.

Respondents were also virtually evenly divided on whether their local districts had enough money to meet the No Child Left Behind Act’s requirements. Forty percent of all respondents said their districts did not have adequate resources for those purposes, while 39 percent said they did.

Mr. Sepp said parents and the general public were more inclined to take a strong interest in schools than other areas of taxpayer spending. Still, he said, polls should be interpreted as “expressions of moral or social preferences,” rather than as firm indicators of how the public would vote in elections.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the July 14, 2004 edition of Education Week as Public Backs School Equity Efforts; Opinion Divided on ‘No Child’ Law


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.
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.
Teaching Webinar
Challenging the Stigma: Emotions and STEM
STEM isn't just equations and logic. Join this webinar and discover how emotions fuel innovation, creativity, & problem-solving in STEM!
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

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

Equity & Diversity Spotlight Spotlight on Inclusion & Equity
This Spotlight will help you examine disparities in districts’ top positions, the difference between equity and equality, and more.
Equity & Diversity Opinion You Should Be Teaching Black Historical Contention
How to responsibly teach this critical component of Black history instruction —and why you should.
Brittany L. Jones
4 min read
A student raises their hand to ask a question before a group of assorted historical figures.
Camilla Sucre for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion 2 Billion People Celebrate Lunar New Year. Your Class Can, Too
Many school districts are putting the upcoming holiday on their calendars. Guests, music, food, and red envelopes can help bring the festival alive.
Sarah Elia
4 min read
 Illustration depicting a vibrantly colored dragon winding through traditions practiced during the lunar new year.
Changyu Zou for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Suburban Schools Reborn: Compton, Calif., Is Charting a Hopeful Path
An exclusive excerpt from a new book about America's fast-changing suburban schools by former Education Week Staff Writer Benjamin Herold.
7 min read
Principal Bilma Bermudez looks at the virtual reality scene 8th grade student Miguel Rios created at Jefferson Elementary School in Compton, Calif., on Jan. 19, 2024.
Principal Bilma Bermudez looks at the virtual reality scene 8th grade student Miguel Rios designed at Jefferson Elementary School in Compton, Calif., on Jan. 19, 2024.
Lauren Justice for Education Week