PA Voters Show Powerful Support for Public Education; Majority Believe Public Education is Key to a Strong State Economy

Poll shows voters believe state should provide more funding for public schools

Harrisburg, PA—(November 21, 2011)—The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC) has released poll results that show Pennsylvania voters overwhelmingly value public education, support an increase in state funding for the 500 school districts statewide, and support public school choices, while opposing the use of taxpayer funds for private school tuition. The polling, commissioned by EPLC, was conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research, which is based in Harrisburg.

The results of the new Annual Pennsylvania Education Issues Poll showed that Pennsylvanians place high value on quality public education and believe that a strong educational system is essential for a strong economy.  Ninety-three percent of those surveyed agreed that “high quality public schools are vital for the success of Pennsylvania’s economy,” and 95 percent agreed that “all students in Pennsylvania should be legally entitled to the opportunity to receive a quality education.”

“Across the board—regardless of party affiliation, geography, ideology, and educational background—the value that Pennsylvanians place in their schools is clear,” said Jim Lee, president of Susquehanna Polling and Research.

Also apparent in the results is bipartisan support for increased funding for public education at the state level. From a list of seven issues, the registered voters surveyed listed “increasing state funding for and improving education” as the second most important priority for the governor and legislature, trailing only job creation and improving the economy.

“The results show great concern for the economy, as well as the notion that stronger schools strengthen the economy,” said EPLC President Ron Cowell. “It is clear to us that voter understand the critical link between public education and the well-being of the economy, the Commonwealth, and their local communities.”

In addition to supporting a higher level of state funding in general, and specifically for the significant increases provided during 2008, 2009 and 2010, respondents expressed support for increasing state funding in poorer school districts to reduce the funding disparity with wealthier districts. Sixty-two percent were in favor of doing so, 23 percent opposed.

On another question, 82 percent agreed with the statement that adequate funding for school districts “should be maintained in both good and poor economic times, even if it means lawmakers must make politically difficult decisions concerning additional state revenues and/or cuts to other programs.”

“The fact that the majority of voters surveyed opposed the devastating $900 million cuts to state funding for school districts this year is more evidence that Pennsylvanians want state lawmakers to give greater priority to education funding when passing a state budget,” said Cowell.  “This survey again demonstrates that Pennsylvanians have very strong views about the state’s responsibility for funding public education and the right of students in all districts to high quality public school programs.”

The poll showed strong support for providing important academic opportunities to all eligible  students within the public school system, such as arts education, advanced placement courses, and career-technical courses. By 53 percent to 35 percent, voters also expressed support for charter schools within the public school system.

However, by a ratio of more than 2-1, 67 percent to 30 percent, voters said they opposed using taxpayer funds to support “tuition for students attending non-public schools like religious or private schools.”

“The people we spoke with were supportive of certain elements of school choice,” said Lee, “but the majority clearly opposes schools vouchers for non-public education.”

The survey was conducted between October 24th and 31st, and included responses from roughly 800 registered voters statewide.  More detailed results can be found at

About EPLC
The mission of The Education Policy and Leadership Center is to encourage and support the development and implementation of effective state-level education policies to improve student learning in grades P-12, increase the effective operation of schools, and enhance educational opportunities for citizens of all ages.

About the Poll
This poll was commissioned by The Education Policy and Leadership Center and conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research. Completed interviews were conducted October 24 -31, 2011 with 800 registered voters. Only voters with prior vote history in G10, G09, G08 and/or G07 were contacted, as well as new registrants since 2010. Interviews are randomly selected and conducted via telephone using the professionally-trained survey research staff from the Harrisburg telephone call center of Susquehanna Polling and Research. Interviews are closely monitored to ensure a representative sample of Pennsylvania’s electorate is achieved based on party affiliation, geography, gender, age and other demographics; results are sometimes statistically weighted.  The margin of error for a sample size of 800 interviews is +/-3.46% at the 95% confidence level.


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