Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008 | 9:30 a.m.
Results of a poll conducted by the conservative-leaning Nevada Policy Research Institute, and being released this morning, show there’s not much sympathy for teachers who think they’re underpaid.
Sixty-nine percent of respondents believed current teacher salaries were either “about right” or “too high,” and 61 believed the same about public school funding overall. (Fifty-eight percent of the respondents said they had children in school.)
The poll, conducted mid-December by Atlanta-based Strategic Vision, gathered opinions from 1,000 Nevadans who voted in the 2006 election and who said they were planning to vote again this year.
The findings on school funding don’t quite jibe with other recent surveys that asked similar questions, including one conducted by the Clark County School District (also in mid-December). When 600 registered county voters were asked what was the most important issue facing the district, the most popular answer was over-crowded classrooms, followed closely by lack of funding and low teacher pay.
The questions for the NPRI poll were prepared by Paul DiPerna of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, which promotes alternatives in public education.
In an introductory letter attached to the report, the Friedman Foundation urged critics to judge the findings by scientific standards. “If you can find anything in our work that doesn’t follow sound empirical methods, by all means say so,” the letter reads. “But if you can’t find anything scientifically wrong with it, don’t complain that our findings can’t be true just because we’re not neutral. That may make a good sound bite, but what lurks behind it is a flat rejection of science.”
John Jasonek, executive director of the Clark County Education Association, said he wouldn’t comment on the poll until he had a chance to see the wording of the questions used by the pollsters.
“They don’t just ask `Are teacher salaries about right,’” Jasonek said. “There’s always some narrative to set things up. All I can say is those findings are way out of whack and not reconciled with every other poll I’ve seen. ”
When asked what they believed the average Nevada teacher earned, 36 percent put the salary at between $40,000 and $50,000, while nearly 30 percent said between $50,001 and $60,000. And 8 percent of respondents believed teachers earned over $60,000. Nevada’s average teacher salary is about $44,000. In Clark County, teachers with eight years experience and a master’s degree earn $44,425.
Other highlights include:
*A majority of Nevadans (53 percent) is not satisfied with the current system of public schools, rating them as “poor” or “fair.” The same percentage of respondents said they would support vouchers to help parents offset the cost of sending their children to private schools.
*Only 11 percent of respondents said public school would be their first choice for their child, with 48 percent preferring private schools and 23 percent citing charter schools.
*More than half of Nevadans said they felt “strongly” or “somewhat” favorable toward charter schools.
The last issue is a particularly sticky wicket, given that the State Board of Education recently issued a moratorium on new charter school applications, despite the protests of some lawmakers and charter school operators. There was “little consideration for the views of Nevada families” and the board “acted without the benefit of knowing where the public stood on charter schools,” the NPRI report concludes.
The Nevada Policy Research Institute has scheduled a press conference for 10:30 a.m. today at the Grant Sawyer Government Building to discuss the poll.