The best way to improve public education is to give teachers a big pay raise and provide professional development to increase their work skills; that’s the opinion of most Idahoans a new Idaho Politics Weekly poll shows.

In addition, the new survey by Dan Jones & Associates finds that most Idahoans say government works well for the wealthy, and for political insiders and lobbyists, but not so well for “people like me,” the middle class, or low-income Idahoans.

The recent GOP-controlled Idaho Legislature gave significant increases to public education (7.5 percent more spending over the previous year) and instituted a new teacher pay program.

So it appears lawmakers were listening to their constituents on that critical issue.

Jones finds that on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the “most important” weighting of the question, Idahoans say teacher pay and work skill development would provide the best outcomes to improving the state’s public education system.

Statisticians look at what is called the “mean score” in 1-5 measurements: the higher the mean score (toward a perfect 5), the more important the respondent ranks the alternatives.

Increasing teacher pay and improved teaching skills/development gets a mean score of 4.13, Jones finds – the highest of the seven questions asked.

Three-fourths of the respondents ranked higher teacher pay/development a 4 or a 5 on the “importance” scale.

That is followed in importance by:

  • More computers and technology in the classroom, 3.90 mean score.
  • Significant increases in public education spending, 3.88.
  • More online courses for students, 3.40.
  • Giving greater school choice to parents via private school vouchers, 3.2.
  • More student testing and a longer school day, 2.69.
  • Moving up the morning school start time for junior high and high school students, 2.54.

Jones also asked different categories of where “government works well.”

There is some clear cynicism among many Idahoans on these questions, for they think government works well for the wealthy and the politically-connected, not so well for the rest of the folks.

Jones finds that “government works well for:”

  • “people like me:” Only 36 percent agree with that statement while 62 percent disagree.
  • “the middle class:” 31 percent agree with that, 67 percent disagree.
  • “the low-income:” 44 percent agree, 54 percent disagree.
  • “the wealthy:” 73 percent agree with that statement, 22 percent disagree.
  • “political insiders and lobbyists:” 83 percent agree, only 12 percent disagree.

Republicans, who might have a little more money that Democrats or political independents are less likely to say the wealthy are better treated by the government, Jones finds.

Still, by a 61-34 percent majority, Republicans say the wealthy are well treated by the government.

Democrats believe that 89-7 percent; while independents agree with that, 76-20 percent, Jones finds.

Jones polled 601 adult Idahoans from May 20-28; the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.98 percent.