Governor’s rating up on handling education, still below overall job approval

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012 at 4:36 pm by

Results from the latest rendition of Quinnipiac University’s New York State poll are out today.  Among other findings, it shows voter approval of Governor Cuomo’s handling of education is up from February.

It also reports some disjointed thinking by voters on the issue of releasing teacher evaluations.

The Governor’s overall approval rating was 71 to 16 percent favorable, the highest for a new York Governor since George Pataki hit 81 percent in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, 11 years ago.

By a 47-31 percent margin, voters said they approve of the Governor’s handling of education, improved from 45-42 percent in mid-February.

The margin is narrower among voters with children in public school – 45-42 positive.  But this is also an improvement from the February poll, when public school parents disapproved of the Governor’s handling of education by a 39-51 percent margin.

With both public school parents and voters overall,  the greatest movement was from negative to undecided (don’t know/no answer).

One question in the February poll not repeated in May asked voters to rate the quality of public schools in their community.  In that February survey, 78 percent rated their local schools fairly good or very good, compared to 26 percent rating them fairly or very bad.

The latest poll was conducted between May 22 and 28 – after voters approved 96 percent of proposed school budgets in the May 15 voting.

I suspect school votes benefited the Governor’s approval ratings in two ways.

First, voters welcomed the lower tax increases proposed by school districts this year and connected them to the new tax cap championed by the Governor.

Second, although districts had to make painful decisions to budget within the tax cap, the high pass rate on May 15 was still a flash of positive news about schools.

Put another way, had large numbers of districts had their proposals defeated and been forced to contemplate revised budgets with no increase in tax levy, there would have been many negative stories in the news about dire cuts under consideration.

I suspect the Governor’s lower approval ratings for his handling of education, especially among public school parents, reflect concern among some voters about the accumulating effects of school budget cuts, some necessitated by past state aid reductions, some of which were enacted under the prior Governor.

On teacher evaluations…

By a 56-40 percent margin, voters said they approve of releasing to the public the results of evaluations of public school teachers.  The results were nearly identical across all regions – Upstate, New York City, and the New York City suburbs.

Yet asked, “Do you trust the results of the recently released teacher evaluations or do you think the teacher evaluations were flawed?”, 42 percent of voters said they regard the evaluations as flawed, while only 18 percent said they trust them.

So a large number of voters don’t trust the evaluations, but want to see them anyway.

(Note:  the question is flawed – only in New York City have teacher evaluations been recently released.)

The survey also found voter support for teacher merit pay, making it easier to fire tenured teachers, and considering performance, not just seniority, in layoff decisions.

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