Voters See Lack of Accountability Among Public Officials on Education

By Joetta L. Sack — March 12, 2003 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Only about one-third of American voters say that public officials are being held accountable for their actions on education, according to a recent national poll.

Hard Times: Tough Choices

The poll, sponsored by the Public Education Network and Education Week, found that 57 percent of voters surveyed reported that they did not think officeholders were being held accountable for their education records. Only 34 percent agreed that public officials are being held accountable. The remaining 9 percent said they didn’t know.

The survey report, “Demanding Quality Public Education in Tough Economic Times,” is available from the Public Education Network. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

The survey, released last month, reported that a large majority of voters want more funding for education, and support accountability for those funds. A total of 1,050 registered voters were surveyed by telephone in January for the poll, which had a margin of error of about 3.5 percentage points. (“Aid to Schools Gets Support in Voter Poll,” Feb. 26, 2003.)

Celinda C. Lake, a prominent Democratic pollster and the president of Lake, Snell, Perry, and Associates Inc., the Washington-based firm that conducted the survey, said voters were concerned that the people they elect be accountable for education policies and spending.

Wendy D. Puriefoy, the president of PEN, which is a national coalition that advocates for high-quality public education in low-income areas, seconded that view.

“The public does not want to be taken for granted,” she said. “They expect their officials to be knowledgeable about what is a major issue for the country.”

Poll respondents identified strong leadership by public officials as the second most important factor, after high levels of parental involvement, in ensuring that a community has strong public schools.

When asked to rank on a scale of zero to 10 the importance of various factors in achieving that goal, 81 percent of respondents gave an 8, 9, or 10 to “strong leadership from officeholders committed to taking action to improve public schools.”

On a question focused on what mayors or county supervisors can do to make low-performing schools succeed, 56 percent of respondents gave a 10 to “know about education issues.” Forty-eight percent gave that top rating to “fight for more education funds in the state legislature and Congress,” while 42 percent gave a 10 to “hold schools accountable for quality performance.”

Greater Effort Sought

Seventy-one percent of those polled thought that their state legislators “should play a greater role in advocating for quality public education,” while 62 percent wanted their mayors or county supervisors to do that.

More than 80 percent of the voters said they would be more likely to re- elect a public official who protects the education budget from cuts, “fights for their share” of federal funds for education, supports getting tough on failing schools, votes to pay for reducing class size, or supports providing more early-childhood programs.

In addition, 70 percent or more of voters said they would be more likely to vote to re-elect an official who “votes to fund reducing school size,” or who supports “investing more in teachers, including higher pay,” putting more money into low-performing schools, or providing more before- and after-school programs.

Sixty-nine percent said they would back a candidate who “requires school districts to tighten their belts,” while 68 percent said candidates who pushed for higher pay for teachers who work in low-performing schools would be more likely to get their votes.

Roughly half the voters said they would be more likely to re-elect a candidate who “raises taxes to increase education funding,” supports high- stakes testing, or “supports vouchers for education.” Forty-five percent said they would be more inclined to vote for one who “supports using tax money to go toward vouchers for private schools.”


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.
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

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

Accountability States Make It Hard to Tell How Much Schools Are Spending, Report Says
The vast majority of states aren't publishing spending data in a visually appealing or comprehensive way, according to EdTrust.
3 min read
Group of people with large pens, coins, calculator, clip board, magnifying glass and studying numbers, charts and receipts.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Accountability Did Washington D.C.'s Education Overhaul Help Black Children? This Study Says Yes
Researchers said the district's "market-based" reforms accelerated achievement versus other districts and states.
5 min read
Accountability Opinion What Next-Gen Accountability Can Learn From No Child Left Behind
As we ponder what's next for accountability and assessment, we’d benefit from checking the rearview mirror more attentively and more often.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Accountability Opinion Let’s Make Transparency the Pandemic’s Educational Legacy
Transparency can strengthen school communities, allow parents to see what’s happening, and provide students more of the support they need.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty