Education Poll

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A new poll commissioned by Expect More Arizona, a group dedicated to improving Arizona education, shows that Arizonans consider education a top priority. Pearl Chang Esau, president and CEO of Expect More Arizona.

Ted Simons: The number one public policy issue for Arizonans is funding and improving education. That's according to a new poll commissioned by Expect More Arizona, a group pushing for education excellence. Here now to talk about the survey is Pearl Change Esau, Expect More Arizona's president and CEO. Good to see you.

Pearl Change Esau: Good to see you, too.

Ted Simons: Thanks so much for being here. What exactly did this new poll look at?

Pearl Change Esau: The results of this poll were very encouraging. Statewide, about 600 respondents, likely voters, very representative of the voters who turn out to vote in Arizona, and the results showed that by far and away, very large margins, that the number one issue on the minds of Arizonian voters is education.

Ted Simons: And education I think got 41%, immigration 12%

Pearl Change Esau: Yes.

Ted Simons: Economy 10%?

Pearl Change Esau: Yes, and that marks a change, you know. We've been doing this poll every year for the last few years and in the past, education has been number two and number three, usually trailing immigration and jobs but to see this, it's like education broke away this year as

Ted Simons: Aspects of education?

Pearl Change Esau: Clear leader. Yep, and specifically there's very strong support for career and technical education which we certainly hope to see restored in this upcoming legislative session. There's strong support for teacher pay, increasing teacher pay probably scores the highest across every political party. And another emerging trend we see is really strong support for the idea that increasing graduation from our community colleges and our universities would help strengthen Arizona's economy.

Ted Simons: I saw 85% thought that college graduates regardless of where would help the economy.

Pearl Change Esau: Yes.

Ted Simons: By the way, prop 123, obviously, a big factor on the education landscape. Poll results on that one?

Pearl Change Esau: Poll results continue to be very strong. Our poll confirmed that about two thirds of voters support proposition 123. We are very much supportive of proposition 123. We need to work together to see that passed. Although the polls are strong, it's going to take some work. It is $3.5 billion for schools over the next 10 years. But, you know, strong bipartisan support and we also know that a long-term sustainable dependable plan is needed. This is a 10-year plan, which is great. We also have proposition 301 on the horizon, which is a $600 million amount. So you know, that's something voters, we do need to start talking about updating and renewing that in the next couple of years here. And take some steps to put a long-term plan in place.

Ted Simons: We should mention that the prop 301 would be a renewable and 56% say yes, not overwhelmingly but that's still a majority.

Pearl Change Esau: Yes, we asked them where ideally the funding for education would come from. Voters very strongly supported more funding for education. In fact, that was the number one thing they said, more funding and then teacher pay. On more funding when we asked them where it should come from, the first thing they said was actually the surplus dollars. The second thing they said was proposition 301, which was nearly the same return as proposition 123.

Ted Simons: Yeah, and then exactly 123 I think was 53%, but still, support --

Pearl Change Esau: Solid support.

Ted Simons: Support for 123 was at 66% on its own.

Pearl Change Esau: On its own.

Ted Simons: The idea of serving low-income kids. I saw that 81% thought that was a good idea. That's interesting. Because it suggests maybe a disconnect from maybe what some policy makers are considering.

Pearl Change Esau: It is a very interesting result but generally, what we saw in the poll is that people believe that struggling students, low-income students should receive additional funding. There's a process going on, the governor's classrooms first council right now that is working to reform the funding formula, to simplify it and hopefully create a more equitable funding formula that will promote excellent outcomes. One of the things they're looking at is a wait of some sort for students from low-income backgrounds and we do see that in other states. There are states who do this because we know that low-income students are more expensive to educate. They typically come to school behind.

Ted Simons: Yeah, indeed. And I noticed as well a majority of folks think they do have a role in improving education. Talk to us about that.

Pearl Change Esau: Well, we love to see that. That's what we do in expect more Arizona. We try to get people to roll up their sleeves and realize they've got a responsibility, it impacts everyone and an overwhelming majority believe they do have a role to play and they said they would be willing to vote, to support people, programs and policies that are going to be good for education.

Ted Simons: And that's encouraging. Nice to hear. And yet will we see these folks at the polls?

Pearl Change Esau: This is a poll of likely voters. This is the tip of the iceberg. We're seeing a culture change that's beginning to happen. Again, we've been doing this poll every year for five years. The strength of the results here and support for education, support for the willingness to do something is really pulling out ahead. And I think part of it is that there's been a recession, people have really seen the impact of the budget cuts to schools. They're starting to see the impact on the workforce pipeline, attracting companies to our state. But the economy is now improving so that's great news, and I think people are in the mind set of being ready to say okay we've got to invest, we've got to invest in education, that's going to be our number one priority if we want a strong economy.

Ted Simons: Real quickly last question, that's what people are saying. Impact, though, on the legislature, what are lawmakers going to say?

Pearl Change Esau: I think we have stronger consensus this year than we have in recent years past around the need for education funding. I think there's been an acknowledgment that at least our K-12 schools are underfunded. We see that in the support around proposition 123. We need to make sure that funding for our career and technical education is restored and we've absolutely got to get proposition 123 passed after that.

Ted Simons: All right, good to see you again, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it. And that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Video: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Arizona PBS, members of your PBS station. Thank you.

Pearl Chang Esau: President and CEO of Expect More Arizona

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