SAN FRANCISCO, April 23, 2014—Most Californians favor two historic changes under way in K–12 education: implementation of new English and math standards and a new funding formula that gives school districts increased flexibility over spending and provides extra money for disadvantaged students.
At the same time, most Californians are concerned about whether teachers are prepared to implement the new standards, called the Common Core State Standards. And many residents lack confidence that local districts will make wise use of the money allotted to them in the new Local Control Funding Formula.
These are among the key findings of a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).
“Public support is solidly behind the significant changes that are being made to school funding and classroom curricula this year,” said PPIC’s president and CEO, Mark Baldassare. “However, many Californians have concerns about whether their local schools can effectively implement the new state policies associated with the Local Control Funding Formula and Common Core standards.”
A majority of Californians (56%) say they have heard a lot (19%) or a little (37%) about Common Core, while 43 percent have heard nothing at all. A somewhat higher share of public school parents (65%) have heard at least a little about the new standards.
When read a brief description, 69 percent are in favor of the new standards, 22 percent are opposed, and 10 percent are unsure. Views among public school parents are similar (72% favor, 20% oppose, 8% don’t know). Solid majorities of adults across parties favor Common Core—which has drawn opposition in other states. Among racial/ethnic groups, Asians (88%), Latinos (77%), and blacks (71%) are more likely than whites (57%) to favor the new standards. Solid majorities across age, education, and income groups are in favor. However, support is higher among those who have heard nothing about Common Core (73%) than among those who have heard a lot (59%).
Half of Californians (49%) agree with the assertion that Common Core will help make education in the United States more competitive globally. A quarter (26%) say there will be no effect, and 14 percent say it will make U.S. education less competitive globally. About two-thirds of residents are at least somewhat confident that implementing the new standards will help students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills (64%) and make them more college or career ready upon graduation (66%).
Among public school parents, a slim majority (53%) say their child’s school or school district has provided them with information about Common Core, with 37 percent saying that the information is adequately helping them understand how the standards will affect their child (16% need more information; 43% report receiving no information).
Three-quarters of adults (75%) are very concerned (37%) or somewhat concerned (38%) that teachers are not adequately prepared to implement Common Core. Among public school parents, 80 percent are at least somewhat concerned.
The current state budget gives districts $1.25 billion to implement Common Core. As districts begin to roll it out, some policymakers have advocated for additional money. Strong majorities of adults (65%) and public school parents (71%) favor providing more funding. Support is lower among likely voters (53%).
Majorities Across Parties Favor New Funding Formula
When PPIC asked Californians whether they had heard about the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), just 27 percent had heard of it by name (3% heard a lot, 24% heard a little). Awareness was higher among public school parents (7% heard a lot, 30% heard a little). Across parties, regions, and demographic groups, awareness of the LCFF was relatively low, with no more than 5 percent in any group saying they have heard a lot about it.
After hearing a brief description, most Californians (70%), likely voters (67%), and public school parents (71%) say they generally favor the LCFF. Majorities across parties favor it, with Democrats the most likely to be in favor (77% Democrats, 65% independents, 60% Republicans). Among those who have heard of the LCFF, 75 percent favor it. There is also strong support among those who have heard nothing (68%).
The LCFF allocates extra money to districts with more English Learners and lower-income students. Californians have long expressed the view in PPIC surveys that school districts in lower-income areas of the state lack the same resources—including good teachers and classroom materials—as those in wealthier areas. Today, 79 percent hold this view, which is consistent with their support of the LCFF. A majority (59%) also say they are very concerned that students in lower-income areas are less likely than other students to be ready for college when they finish high school, and half (51%) say they are very concerned that English Learners score lower on standardized tests than other students.
As the state implements the LCFF, a slim majority of residents (53%) are at least somewhat confident that school districts will use the money wisely. Just 7 percent are very confident. Half of likely voters (49%) and 57 percent of public school parents are at least somewhat confident. Two-thirds of adults (66%) are optimistic that the academic achievement of English Learners and lower-income students will improve (16% a lot, 50% somewhat) as a result of the LCFF, while a quarter (25%) say it will not improve.
In their implementation of the new funding formula, school districts are required to create accountability plans every three years and seek parent input in developing the plans. The first of these plans must be adopted by July 1. Most Californians (77%) say it is very important for parents to be involved in this process. Yet only about half of parents (52%) say their district has provided them with information about how to participate. Latino parents (61%) are much more likely than whites (42%) to say they have received information about getting involved (sample sizes for Asian and black parents are too small for separate analysis). Parents with lower household incomes are more likely than those with higher incomes to report receiving information (62% under $40,000; 50% $40,000 to under $80,000; 42% $80,000 or more).
How interested are parents in getting involved in the development of accountability plans? Nearly all (91%) are at least somewhat interested. Similar shares of Latinos (53%) and whites (55%) are very interested. Lower-income (59%) and middle-income (60%) parents are much more likely than those earning $80,000 or more (42%) to be very interested.
Most Support State Funding of Preschool
Democratic lawmakers are urging Governor Brown to include funding for voluntary preschool for all four-year-olds in his 2014–15 budget. Solid majorities of California adults (73%), likely voters (63%), and public school parents (80%) say the state should do this.
Consistent with this finding, 66 percent of adults say attending preschool is very important to a student’s success in kindergarten through grade 12 (22% somewhat important). Strong majorities across parties, regions, and demographic groups say preschool is at least somewhat important. Among registered voters, 63 percent say preschool attendance is very important, nearly identical to the response in May 2006 (60%)—just before voters rejected a June ballot measure that would have taxed upper-income residents to fund universal voluntary preschool.
Slim Majority Say State Funding For Schools Still Inadequate
Most Californians (81%) consider the quality of education to be at least somewhat of a problem for California schools. Half of adults (50%), 61 percent of likely voters, and 47 percent of public school parents say it is a big problem. Most adults (81%) also say the state budget situation is at least somewhat of a problem for schools. Majorities of adults (55%), likely voters (62%), and public school parents (59%) say it is a big problem. Asked which of three funding choices will significantly improve the quality of public schools, 41 percent of adults say we need to use state funds more wisely, 10 percent say we need to increase state funding, and the largest share—46 percent—say we need to do both.
At a time when state money for public schools is being restored after the Great Recession, is the current level of funding more than enough, just enough, or not enough? About half of adults (53%) and likely voters (49%) say it is not enough, and 62 percent of public school parents express this view.
Baldassare notes: “Even while the state’s economy and budget situation have improved markedly this year, most adults and even more public school parents say that state funding is falling short of the needs in their local schools.”
How do Californians feel about options to raise money for their local districts? Among likely voters, 55 percent would vote yes if asked to vote on a bond measure to pay for school construction projects. This matches the 55 percent majority vote required to pass a local school bond.
If a measure to increase local parcel taxes for public schools were on the ballot, about half of likely voters (48%) would vote yes—a level of support far short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass a local parcel tax. Asked if they are willing to change Proposition 13 to make it easier to pass local parcel taxes, just 39 percent of likely voters say it is a good idea to lower the two-thirds vote requirement to 55 percent.
More Key Findings
- Brown’s approval at 56 percent among likely voters—he keeps big primary lead—pages 15, 23
Far fewer approve of the governor’s handling of the public school system (33%) than of his overall job performance. The legislature’s job approval rating is 29 percent among likely voters.
- Just 35 percent give schools high marks for both college, career preparation—pages 18, 19
Large majorities say it is very important that their local public schools prepare students for college (81%) and that career technical or vocational education be part of the curriculum (73%). They are more likely to give high marks for college (53%) than career preparation (41%).
- Half give their local schools good marks—page 21
Asked to grade their local public schools, 14 percent of residents give an “A” and 38 percent give a “B.” About a third (30%) give their local schools a “C.”
This PPIC survey is conducted with funding from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation; The Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation; the Silver Giving Foundation; and the Stuart Foundation.
ABOUT THE SURVEY
The PPIC Statewide Survey has provided policymakers, the media, and the general public with objective, advocacy-free information on the perceptions, opinions, and public policy preferences of California residents since 1998. This is the 10th annual survey focusing on K–12 education. Findings are based on a survey of 1,702 California adult residents, including 1,190 interviewed on landline telephones and 512 interviewed on cell phones. Interviews were conducted from April 8–15, 2014, in English and Spanish, according to respondents’ preferences. The sampling error, taking design effects from weighting into consideration, is ±3.8 percent for all adults. For the 1,428 registered voters, it is ±4.1 percent; for the 1,078 likely voters it is ±4.7 percent; and for the 944 likely primary voters, it is ±5.1 percent. For the 398 public school parents, it is ±7.1 percent.
Mark Baldassare is president and CEO of PPIC, where he holds the Arjay and Frances Fearing Miller Chair in Public Policy. He is founder of the PPIC Statewide Survey, which he has directed since 1998.
PPIC is dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research on major economic, social, and political issues. The institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett. PPIC does not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor does it endorse, support, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office.