Colorado Public Education Opinion Survey Part 1

Magellan Strategies are pleased to present the results of an online survey of 882 Colorado registered voters. The interviews were conducted from April 26th through May 1st, 2022. This survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95 percent confidence interval. The survey data were weighted to be representative of the voter registration demographics within the state of Colorado. The survey questions were developed in collaboration with Chalkbeat Colorado. We sincerely appreciate their thoughts and insights regarding important topics related to public education in Colorado.

Key Findings and Observations:

Local School District Job Approval

  • Among all respondents, 40% approve and 42% disapprove of the job their local school district is doing educating students. One in five respondents did not have an opinion on this question. Voter population subgroups with higher approval ratings for their school district included all Democrats (52% approve), Democrats aged 45-64 (62%), suburban men (47%), households with a student attending a public school (54%), and voters in the new 8th Congressional District (52%), El Paso County (48%) and Weld County (53%).
  • Population subgroups with higher disapproval ratings for their school district included all Republicans (57% disapprove), urban women (53%), rural voters (53%), voters in the First Congressional District (Denver) (61%), and Larimer County (50%).

Local Teacher Image Rating

  • Among all respondents, 58% had a favorable opinion, and 22% had an unfavorable opinion of the teachers in their local school district. Reviewing responses by party affiliation, the survey finds Democratic voters with a 70% teacher favorability rating, unaffiliated voters with a 56% favorability rating, and Republican voters with a 49% teacher favorability rating. Among households with a student attending a public school, 74% have a favorable opinion of their local teachers. Among households without a student, the local teacher favorability rating is 54%.

Colorado Public Schools Heading in the Right Direction or Off on the Wrong Track?

A plurality of respondents, 44%, think public schools in their area are off on the wrong track, only 28% think they are headed in the right direction, and 28% did not have an opinion. The table below shows responses by voter subgroup.

   
All
Voters
 

Men
 

Wom
 

Unaf
 

Dem
 

Rep

18-
44

45-
64
 

65+

18
in HH

No
18 HH
Wrong Track44%42%46%42%30%62%44%49%36%53%40%
Right Direct.28%28%28%29%35%18%25%27%35%31%26%

The survey included a follow-up, open-ended question asking respondents to describe the reasons why they believed public schools were headed in the right direction or off on the wrong track. The responses present a challenging environment for Colorado teachers and professional educators to navigate.  

Among Democratic voters, there is a deep frustration with public schools being underfunded and that teachers are undervalued and underpaid. In addition, these voters strongly believe conservative politicians are interfering with school administrations, firing superintendents, and pushing a political agenda. There is also a heightened concern among Democratic voters there is too much of a focus on standardized testing.

Republican voters believe most public schools are indoctrinating students with liberal ideology, “wokeism,” teaching Critical Race Theory, and radical social justice and environmental ideals. Furthermore, they are enraged about student sexual orientation and identification issues. Republicans do not believe public schools focus enough on teaching “the basics” of reading, writing, math, and critical thinking. Depending on their age or pollical leanings, unaffiliated voters echo the same concerns as Democratic and Republican voters. Older Unaffiliated voters are likely to be more conservative, and younger ones tend to be more Democratic. Finally, many respondents mentioned concerns about a lack of discipline in classrooms.

Do Local School Districts Manage and Spend Taxpayer Money Wisely?

  • Among all respondents, only 31% think their local school district spends taxpayer money wisely, 42% do not, and 27% did not have an opinion. The responses to this question are not surprising and concerning for school districts. School districts have a hard enough time communicating with student parents and non-parents in their communities about their policies, procedures, and events. Educating and informing their communities about how well they efficiently spend their financial resources can be overlooked or omitted from school district communications.   

How Colorado Voters Think Public Education is Funded

  • The survey asked voters how public education is funded in Colorado. We included this question to see how prevalent the idea of marijuana sales tax funding was top of mind and to discover what people believed. Among all respondents, 52% mentioned the word “taxes” or “property taxes.” Other common responses were “state and federal funding” and grants. To our surprise, “marijuana sales tax” was mentioned by less than 3% of all respondents.    

Opinion of School Districts Having the Financial Resources to Provide a Good Education

  • Forty-three percent of respondents think Colorado school districts have the financial resources needed to provide students with a good education, 49% do not, and 8% are undecided. Among respondents with a student in their household, 56% said school districts have the financial resources to provide a good education. However, only 37% believe school districts have the financial resources to provide a good education among households without a student.

Will Additional Funding Result in a Better Education for Students?

  • Among all respondents, 56% think additional funding for public education will improve students’ education. Thirty-seven percent do not believe this, and 7% do not have an opinion. Among younger voters aged 18-34, 65% believe additional funding will lead to a better education compared to 48% of seniors aged 65 or older. The difference of opinion by party affiliation on this question is vast. A whopping 85% of Democratic voters believe additional funding will lead to a better education, compared to 51% of unaffiliated voters and just 36% of Republicans.

Voter Opinion of Different Ballot Measure Options to Fund Public Education

  • Among all respondents, 45% said they would vote for a modest tax increase to fund school building maintenance needs compared to 57% supporting a tax increase to fund teacher salaries. Forty-three percent of respondents believe marijuana sales tax can be used for teacher salaries, and 32% do not. Furthermore, 64% of respondents are more likely to vote for a statewide ballot measure to fund a specific education need like teacher salaries. However, only 27% of respondents are more likely to vote for a ballot measure that lets the school district decide how to spend the funding.

Voter Opinion of the Relevance of a School Board Candidate’s Views on COVID Policies

  • Among all respondents, 48% say a school board candidate’s COVID policies such as wearing masks, remote learning, and vaccination requirements are less important to them now. However, a nearly equal number of voters, 45%, say those things still matter to them when deciding on a school board candidate.  

Opinion of Universal Preschool Program for All or Families With Risk Factors

  • Colorado voter opinion is evenly split over the question of providing 10 hours of preschool a week to every 4-year-old in the state (49% support) or providing more than 10 hours to a week of preschool to children with risk factors such as teen parents or language delays (41% support). Not surprisingly, respondents that likely have a risk factor support that option overwhelmingly. This includes households with an income of less than $75,000 (57% support), Hispanic respondents (72% support) and African Americans (66% support), and respondents without a 4-year college degree (60% support).

Opinion of Providing Parents With Education Tax Dollars Because of “Learning Loss”

  • Respondents were asked if they agreed or disagreed with the viewpoint of providing parents with education tax dollars for tutoring or tuition for another school to address the problem of “learning loss” caused by remote learning during COVID. Just 34% of Colorado voters agree with this viewpoint, and 60% disagree.

Conclusion

We look forward to releasing Part 2 of this survey very soon.

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted by sending an MMS text message to registered voters in Colorado, inviting them to participate in an online survey. The survey response data was weighted to reflect the voter registration demographics for the state of Colorado. The interviews were conducted from April 26th through May 1st, 2022. This survey has a +/- 3.3% margin of error at the 95 percent confidence interval.

Please contact David Flaherty for any questions regarding this survey at DFlaherty@MagellanStrategies.com.

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