I Wouldn’t Touch It With a Ten-Foot Poll

The annual Phi Delta Kappa International/Gallup poll on the public schools is extremely important because it gives us all something to write and talk about during these last dead weeks of August before the school year starts. It is especially popular because it seems as though Americans support everything: increased education spending, charter schools, student test scores in teacher evaluations, and teachers in general.

I would be more confident of the results if I were more confident that Americans knew how much we were spending on education, what a charter school is, how teachers are currently evaluated, and what goes on daily in a classroom.

The PDK/Gallup poll also shows President Obama with 49% support strictly on the basis of education policy, but GOP nominee-presumptive Mitt Romney within striking distance at 44%. This also gives both sides all they want in terms of talking points.

These numbers sound reasonable to me, but I was curious about the poll sample - 36% Democrat, 28% Republican and 35% independent. Hmmm. I thought the latest party affiliation numbers were 31% Democrat, 27% Republican and 40% independent. Where did I get numbers like that? Gallup.

The poll accurately reflects voters at-large in that two-thirds of the respondents don’t have children in school. That’s why even though the state of education is important to all of us, it is never a decisive issue in a major election. Its effects are never direct enough to sway the choice of the majority of voters.

So don’t get too worked up in either direction about the poll results. And rest assured the Presidential election will be decided on the economy and, probably, health care. Education, as it was in 2008, will be an afterthought.

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