Americans overall say President Obama is the presidential
candidate who will do more to strengthen public education, but
independent voters have more confidence in Mitt Romney for that job.
This is a key finding in a poll measuring public opinion on
Americas state of education, which was released Wednesday by Phi
Delta Kappa (PDK) and Gallup.
Specifically, 49 percent of Americans overall prefer Mr. Obama
for strengthening public education, while 44 percent overall favor
Mr. Romney. But the percentage siding with Romney goes up to 46
percent when only independent voters are considered, while Obama
slips to 41 percent.
Romneys support from independent voters is probably related to
Massachusetts education standards shifting from medium- to high-
achieving during his tenure as governor, says Chester Finn Jr.,
president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington. Mr. Finn
participated in a conference call with reporters Tuesday to comment
on PDK/Gallups 44th annual Poll on the Publics Attitudes Toward the
His track record of accomplishment may make a difference in
public perception of Romney, says Mr. Finn.
Finn says he is disappointed by another finding in the poll:
Respondents were reluctant to provide free public education, school
lunches, and other benefits to children of illegal immigrants. Fifty-
eight percent of Americans oppose this, although opposition is down
from 67 percent in 1995. Opinion is split down party lines, with 65
percent of Democrats but only 21 percent of Republicans in favor.
It is our responsibility to educate every child who is here, no
matter how they got here, says Finn.
The public is also split, the study found, on what measures
should be used to evaluate teachers.
Fifty-two percent said they are in favor of states requiring that
students standardized test results be used in teacher evaluations,
and 40 percent of adults said that one-third to two-thirds of a
teachers evaluation should be based on how well students perform on
Lily Eskelsen, who is vice president of the National Education
Association and also participated in the conference call, opposes
this approach. Its important that teachers unions talk with
administrators about teacher evaluations and how to improve them,
She gave an example from Helena, Mont., where teachers developed
their own criteria, based on course subjects, to measure student
progress. The criteria had to be approved by a committee of peers
and administrators. Parents agreed with the system, Ms. Eskelsen
The public wants children and educators to be held to high
standards, she says. …