According to a new statewide poll, 83% of Illinois residents believe improving public schools is one of the most important issues facing the state, with 16% reporting it’s the single most important issue.
The Illinois Education Association released the survey results Tuesday in its State of Education report, which IEA says is a first-of-its-kind bipartisan poll asking residents about all aspects of public schools.
“The State of Education report tells us what Illinoisans believe our students deserve when it comes to public education,” said IEA President Kathi Griffin.
The poll, conducted by Normington, Petts & Associates, surveyed by phone 1,000 adults in Illinois from March 14-27. Those polled reflect the distribution of people throughout the state according to census data, said Jill Normington of Normington Petts. Chicago and suburban Cook County residents make up about 40% of people polled, according to Normington. The poll has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Overall, the survey found residents have a pessimistic view of the state and public schools – but not teachers, according to Griffin. “Unfortunately, 62% of Illinoisans believe the state is on the wrong track,” said Griffin. “And also, unfortunately, they give poor grades to public schools.”
When asked to grade public schools’ quality of work nationally, 42% gave schools a C, while 22% gave failing grades, according to the poll. When asked to grade the quality of Illinois’ public schools as a whole, only 34% gave the state a C while 33% gave the state failing grades. Illinois residents had a slightly more optimistic view of the public schools in their local communities, with 26% giving schools a C and only 22% failing grades.
Despite a dim view of public schools, respondents had an overall favorable view of teachers: 58% of respondents had something positive to say about them, according to Griffin. Respondents also said teachers were best equipped to determine education standards for children in local schools.
“They are the professionals working in the schools every single day and they should be the ones we go to (for) answers,” Griffin said. “Unfortunately, everything that happens in classrooms is governed by those not in the classroom.”
In terms of funding for Illinois public schools, 71% of respondents said funding should be increased. Even when respondents were told Illinois spends $13,000 per year for each child in public schools, 62% still said funding should be increased.
Respondents also said teachers in community public schools are underpaid (57%) and Illinois teachers should receive their full pension (75%).
“The people have spoken, and I hope our lawmakers are listening,” Griffin said. “We’re in the midst of a teacher shortage, and this poll proves that Illinoisans understand that pay and benefits are important to address this crisis.”
IEA, which represents 135,000 members statewide, says it plans to conduct the poll annually. “This poll is a baseline,” said Griffin. “It’s important to do it on a yearly basis so, hopefully, in my opinion, we see growth and improvements in schools and see improvements in other areas.”