Teachers' unions are not viewed as too influential. Californians are nearly divided in their view of tenure.
Teachers' unions have long fought for the continuation of teacher tenure. Many parents argue that tenure makes it nearly impossible to dismiss inadequate teachers. Others believe tenure is necessary so that teachers have the freedom to teach what they believe is important without risking losing their jobs for expressing a particular point of view. When Californians were asked their opinion of tenure, without being given any information about it, one quarter (26%) were uncertain how they felt about the practice. Forty-two percent favored it and 32% opposed it. However, once they were read a description of tenure, opposition rose to 52% while support remained unchanged. There was little variation among parent and non-parent groups. Affluent residents and white parents were more opposed to tenure than less affluent residents and other ethnic/racial groups.
Schools get weak ratings for curriculum, facilities, and preparing students for the next century.
As with teachers, school facilities get only "average" ratings, with just 16% giving school facilities, such as school buildings and classrooms, an excellent or above average rating. Forty percent gave facilities just an average rating. However, over one-third gave facilities a below average (24%) or poor (16%) rating.
The curriculum in schools receives similar ratings: 17% calling it excellent or above average, 51% calling it average, 18% saying it is below average and nine percent rating it as poor. Non-parents were more likely to believe the curriculum is below average or poor (30%).
When Californians were asked to consider how schools are doing preparing students for jobs in the 21st century, ratings were again fair to poor. Just four percent gave schools an excellent rating in this area and only 10% gave an above average rating. Thirty-five percent said schools are doing only an average job. And a high 44% said the job schools are doing in preparing students for jobs in the next century is below average or poor.
In all three of these areas, Asian parents were more likely than other parents to give schools an excellent or above average rating. Thirty-one percent of Asian parents gave facilities an excellent or above average rating, 38% gave this rating to the curriculum and 35% for preparing students for the next century. White and African American parents were the most likely to give schools a negative review in these areas.
Despite overall high levels of concern about the quality of education, concern about specific issues is moderate to low.
Parents of school-age children were asked to rate how serious they consider a number of problems in their child's school. The only issue to be called a very or somewhat serious problem by more than 50% of parents was "overcrowded classrooms" (named by 53%). However, 46% said overcrowded classrooms are not too serious of a problem or not a serious problem at all. Other results for issues tested included:
"Not enough emphasis on the basics" was called a very or somewhat serious problem by 40% of these parents. Fifty-nine percent of parents of school-age children did not consider this to be too serious of a problem or called it not serious at all.
"Disruptive students" was named by 40% as well. However, 58% said they did not consider this problem to be too serious or serious at all.
"Drug use in school" was named by 37%. Fifty-eight percent did not consider this issue too serious or serious at all in their child's school.
"Too many kids who do not speak English fluently" was named by 37%. Fifty-nine percent of parents of school-age children did not find this issue too serious or serious at all.
"Textbooks being out of date" was named by 36%. Sixty percent did not consider this problem too serious or serious at all.
And "out of date equipment and technology" was called very or somewhat serious by 35% of parents of school-age children. Sixty-two percent did not find this problem to be too serious or serious at all.
Concern about all of these issues increased with the school level of the child. Parents of a high school child were more concerned about each issue than were parents of an elementary school child. More affluent parents and parents of private school children were less concerned about each issue than less affluent parents and parents of public school children. Asian parents were more likely than other parents to consider disruptive students (57%), drug use in school (56%), and no emphasis on the basics (63%) serious problems. African American and Asian parents were more likely than white and Latino parents to think out of date textbooks and technology and equipment, overcrowded classrooms, and too many kids not speaking fluent English are serious problems.
Californians don't necessarily believe that more money is the answer, but would pay higher taxes for schools.
The debate about public school education has often centered on funding and the need to increase spending per student. Yet, the majority of respondents believe we can improve the quality of California's public schools by spending the money that goes to schools more wisely (58%) rather than just spending more money (35%).