by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
The latest High Point University Poll concludes that “NC Republicans and Democrats agree on education issues.” That’s news to me.
After an examination of the poll, I suspect the supposed agreement is a consequence of the pollsters’ decision to focus on benefits and not costs. For example,
Q: The last statewide bond referendum for public school facility construction and maintenance was held in 1997. Would you generally favor or oppose a statewide bond referendum to provide North Carolina school districts with funds to address an estimated 8 to 10-billion-dollar backlog in school construction and renovation.
Of course, 76 percent of respondents favor a statewide bond referendum! There is nothing in the question that addresses the borrowing costs or debt capacity concerns that may lead some to oppose the idea.
Q: Would you be willing to pay more in taxes so that North Carolina TEACHERS would be paid at the level of the national average within five years?
In this case, 73 percent of respondents said that they would pay higher taxes to raise teacher pay. How much higher and what kind of tax would it be?
Q: Virtual charter school students stay at home and take all of their classes online. Do you generally favor or oppose children taking all their classes online through virtual charter schools?
This question does not focus on the benefits of virtual schooling, that is, the “why” students enroll or their level of satisfaction. But that is a minor point compared to the fact that the question makes it seem that students are home surfing the web all day. In my experience, few people know how virtual schooling works. Would respondents support virtual charter schools if the pollster actually described how they work? Do people object to virtual education generally or dislike the model of delivering virtual education through a charter school? Are they more receptive to part-time, rather than full-time, coursework? A question about the state-run North Carolina Virtual School would have answered those questions.