As in most states, Idaho’s Legislature makes a major financial commitment each year for public education.
But a statewide public opinion survey for Idaho Politics Weekly (a new political online newsletter in Idaho) shows that most Idaho residents aren’t satisfied with their public schools, and don’t believe the state’s education policy is going in the right direction.
Fifty-eight percent of Idahoans believe education policy in the state is going in the wrong direction, the new survey, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, finds.
Less than a third – 31 percent – say Idaho education policy is going in the right direction. And 11 percent didn’t know.
The survey was conducted in late December, the sample 520 adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent.
Republicans hold more than two-thirds majorities in both the Idaho House and Senate, and so set the education funding for the state.
The 2015 Legislature convenes Jan. 12, and education funding and direction will, as always, be tops on the agenda.
The new poll also finds that 65 percent of Idahoans believe education funding is too low. Twenty percent say it is “just right,” while only 7 percent say it is too high.
Across the country, a number of conservatives have been complaining about Common Core, a state-adopted set of standards in K-12 for English language arts and mathematics.
While certainly a conservative state, Idahoans still support Common Core, 49-40 percent. Ten percent said they didn’t know.
On a specific court ruling – one in which a judge decided that the state’s Education Network bid had to be redone – Idahoans are strongly in support of the high school Internet wiring.
Seventy-two percent said the Internet contract should be rebid for the Idaho Education Network.
Only 15 percent said “no,” don’t rebid the contract. And 13 percent didn’t know.
There is a movement across the nation that would require high school students, in order to graduate, to pass a test similar to tests mandated for new American citizens.
Immigrants, to become citizens, must know basic facts of U.S. history, civics and government.
The new survey found Idahoans support making high school students pass such a test – 81 percent like that idea, 15 percent oppose it and 4 percent didn’t know.
Since it will be the GOP majority that decides these issues during the general session, it’s of interest to see how the above questions break out along partisan lines.
And not surprisingly, since their party is setting education policy in the state, Idaho Republicans are more mixed in their opinions on that subject.
-- 44 percent of Republicans said education policy in Idaho is going in the right direction, 44 percent said it’s going in the wrong direction.
-- By a 76-18 percent Democrats said education policy is going in the wrong direction.
-- And political independents agree education policy, by 64-26 percent, is going in the wrong direction.
-- Even though Republicans are split on the policy issue, still 55 percent say education funding in Idaho is too low; 31 percent say it is “just right;” and 8 percent say it is too high.
Whether the legislative majority Republicans can find a way – or the political will – to give a significant bump to public education funding in the upcoming session is another matter.
-- Legislative Democrats clearly have a mandate from their party members: The new survey finds that 89 percent of Idaho Democrats want more funding for schools, only 7 percent said the current funding is “just right,” while 2 percent said it is too high.
-- Political independents fall out 69 percent wanting more school funding, 15 percent say the current amount is correct, and 7 percent say it is too much.
Common Core standards – which are not a product of the federal government, as some opponents believe – are still controversial among Idaho Republicans.
Pollster Jones found that a majority – 55 percent – of GOP rank-and-file oppose the Common Core. Forty-six percent support the K-12 education standards.
Fifty-three percent of both Democrats and independents support Common Core standards, Jones found.
Finally, all the partisan groups like the idea of high school students having to learn the same U.S. history and civics as new citizens: 86 percent support among Republicans, 72 percent support among Democrats, and 80 percent support among independents.
Idaho Politics Weekly asked other interesting questions as part of the December poll, and those results will be published in the coming weeks during January.