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LSU’s Louisiana Survey Shows State Residents’ Opinions on Primary and Secondary Education

03/20/2012 08:21 AM

BATON ROUGE – The LSU Public Policy Research Lab, or PPRL, supported by the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs, has released the first section of their annual Louisiana Survey, focusing on residents’ opinions about primary and secondary education. They found that, in general, most Louisianans are unhappy with the current state of K-12 education in Louisiana. They tend to be supportive of charter schools, divided over a voucher system and in favor of stronger state support for pre-kindergarten programs.


“Louisiana residents consider changing K-12 public education to be a top priority for the state; with more than 1 in 3 residents saying the system needs to be completely rebuilt. A majority of residents in Louisiana support enacting reforms via policies such as more funding for Pre-K education, pay for teachers based on performance not seniority, and charter schools,” said Kirby Goidel, PPRL director. “With the Legislature in session right now, and education reform being a key topic, it’s important that policy makers have data on what all residents of Louisiana want in the way of necessary change.”


Only 8 percent of respondents rated Louisiana K-12 schools as excellent in terms of preparing students for college, and only 6 percent rate the schools as excellent in preparing students for the workforce. Respondents in Baton Rouge and New Orleans are more likely to rate schools as poor in preparing students for the workforce or college. For example, 36 percent of Baton Rouge area residents and 33 percent of New Orleans area residents rate the schools as poor in preparing students for college compared to only 22 percent in Southwest Louisiana and 23 percent in the Northshore and Orleans suburban parishes. Similarly, 32 percent of Baton Rouge residents and 38 percent of New Orleans residents rate the schools as poor in preparing students for the workforce compared to 21 percent in Southwest Louisiana, 26 percent in North Louisiana, and 30 percent in the Northshore.  


In terms of demographics, African Americans, less educated and poorer respondents rate the schools more positively. For example, 39 percent of African Americans rate the schools as excellent (12 percent) or good (27 percent) in preparing students for college compared to 22 percent of Caucasians (5 percent excellent and 16 percent good).  Similarly, 32 percent of respondents with less than a high school education rate the schools as excellent in preparing students for college compared to 21 percent of college graduates. And, in terms of income, 39 percent of respondents making less than $30,000 rate the schools as excellent or good in preparing students for college compared to 18 percent of respondents making $75,000 or more.  


Thirty-six percent of African Americans compared to 22 percent of Caucasian rate the schools as good or excellent in preparing students for the workforce. And 39 percent of respondents with less than high school rate the schools as good or excellent compared to 17 percent with a college degree.


When asked about how reform should be brought about, more than one-third of respondents (34 percent) said the system needed to be completely rebuilt and more than half (52 percent) said fundamental change was needed. Only 12 percent said minor changes were necessary.


Respondents in Baton Rouge (43 percent) and New Orleans (41 percent) were most likely to say the system needed to be completely rebuilt.  And higher income respondents were less likely to say only minor changes were needed. Across the board, Louisiana residents see fundamental change as required to fix primary and secondary education.


General support for reform, however, does not always translate into specific support for policy proposals. Seventy percent of respondents favor (47 percent) or strongly favor (23 percent) opening more charter schools, while 48 percent favor (31 percent) or strongly favor (17 percent) school vouchers. With 48 percent also opposing school vouchers, opinion is clearly more divided on vouchers than charter schools.


Charters have strong support across regions, but have their greatest support in the New Orleans region (78 percent). Similarly, there is considerable support for charters across education, income and race.


Vouchers are most supported in New Orleans (56 percent) and Southwest Louisiana (54 percent) and receive the least support in Baton Rouge (37 percent) and in the Northshore (40 percent).  Fifty-four percent of African Americans compared to 44 percent of Caucasians prefer vouchers.  Fifty-nine percent less than $30,000 compared to 43 percent of those making $75,000 or more support vouchers.

Louisiana residents are supportive of “pay for performance” for teachers. When asked whether teachers should be paid based on how well their students perform on a variety of different measures or whether pay should be based on seniority, 58 percent of respondents opted for performance-based pay. Thirty percent of respondents opted for seniority and the remaining 10 percent said they did not know or were unsure.


Support for pay for performance is stronger among Caucasian respondents and higher income respondents. Sixty-four percent of Caucasian respondents said they preferred pay for performance compared to 44 percent of African American respondents. Slighter more African American respondents (48 percent) preferred pay based on seniority. Sixty-seven percent of respondents earning $75,000 or more supported pay for performance, compared to 55 percent of respondents earning less than $30,000.  Education is also related to support for pay for performance, but the pattern is considerably different – 22 percent of college educated respondents said they did not know or were unsure, compared to 8 percent of respondents with some college or high school degree and 2 percent of respondents with less than high school.


Finally, the survey found broad support for pre-k education. Seventy-eight percent of respondents support “funding so that all 4-year olds can attend a high quality pre-kindergarten program if their parents want them to.” Only 20 percent of respondents were opposed, while another 3 percent said they do not know or are unsure. Support for pre-k is strong across regions and various demographic groups and never fell below 60 percent. Stronger support was shown among African-Americans, younger, less educated and lower income respondents. For example, only 62 percent of respondents 65 and older support funding pre-k compared to 85 percent of respondents 35-44 year olds.  Similarly, 84 percent of respondents with less than a high school education support funding pre-k compared to 70 percent of respondents with a college degree.


The annual Louisiana Survey, sponsored by LSU’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs, was created to serve as a barometer of statewide public opinion. The 2012 Louisiana Survey results will be broken out into several sections in order to best disseminate its findings, and will be released throughout March and April 2012.


The overall survey includes 731 randomly selected respondents, including 517 landline telephone respondents and 214 cell phone respondents. The survey was conducted from Feb. 7 to Feb. 29 and has margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points. Final results are weighted to reflect the most current population estimates available. A detailed copy of the results described in this release and a discussion of the methodology can be obtained at www.survey.lsu.edu.


For additional information or to schedule an interview with Kirby Goidel, director of the Louisiana Survey, contact Ashley Berthelot at 225-578-3870 or aberth4@lsu.edu.

LSU Research Communications
225-578-3870