Before the February 7 confirmation of a new U.S. Secretary of Education, a lot of debate took place regarding the best way to educate the nation’s children, and the state of our education system in general. And while the country as a whole will have to wait and see what the new administration will bring to the table, the question here at home remains: what do Arizona voters want when it comes to education?
According to a statewide survey of likely Arizona voters, conducted on behalf of Expect More Arizona in December 2016 by Public Opinion Strategies, education is the top issue for Arizonans (43 percent) over immigration/border security (34 percent) and the economy (16 percent). More specifically, lack of funding (41 percent) and teacher pay/teacher shortage (34 percent) emerged as the two top education issues.
According to the survey, a majority of voters say too little funding is going to teacher pay (81 percent) and K-12 public education (72 percent). And when asked what education issue, if any, they would pay more in taxes to support, higher teacher pay was the top choice across all political parties. Also notable, only 8 percent of all likely voters surveyed indicated an overall unwillingness to pay more taxes to support education.
The survey also showed overwhelming support for the renewal of Prop 301 across all political parties (79 percent All, 72 percent R, 90 percent D, 78 percent I), and a willingness to increase the Prop 301 sales tax rate in order to fund teacher pay (74 percent) or to help all Arizona children read proficiently by the end of third grade (73 percent).
Additional notable takeaways:
- Finding a long-term solution for education funding is rated as a top education priority by 84 percent of likely Arizona voters, regardless of their age, party affiliation, ethnicity, economic status or geographic location.
- Ninety-five (95) percent of voters believe it is important to provide schools the funding they need to attract and retain great teachers with 76 percent agreeing Arizona is facing a teacher shortage crisis.
- An overwhelming majority agree that Arizona must ensure all students receive the support needed to read proficiently by the end of third grade (95 percent).
- Voters agree all students deserve a great education (96 percent) and that education impacts the strength of our communities (95 percent).
- Eighty percent agree that increasing the number of people who graduate from the state’s public community colleges and universities will help improve the state’s economy and 75 percent of voters also agree that community colleges and universities should receive additional funding.
While these and other poll results clearly show what Arizona voters care most about, the state also has a meaningful tool to better understand where we stand on these and other key education metrics. In early 2016, Expect More Arizona and the Center for the Future of Arizona collaborated to elevate a set of widely accepted indicators by which Arizonans can measure our state’s progress, celebrate successes and take action together. The Arizona Education Progress Meter includes indicators that start with the early years and continue through each important milestone leading up to graduating high school and achieving career training or a degree.
“We are encouraged to see such strong support from voters statewide for Arizona’s teachers and students,” says Erin Hart, chief operating officer for Expect More Arizona. “We look forward to working together with policymakers and elected officials to make education a top priority and to advance the preferences of Arizona voters.”
For additional information about Expect More Arizona and the organization’s 2017 advocacy priorities, visit www.expectmorearizona.org.