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SHU Poll Examines Attitudes About Public Education In Connecticut

Tracy Deer-Mirek
Sacred Heart University
Professor Lesley DeNardis speaks at “Connecticut at the Crossroads: A Discussion about the Future of Public Education," a public forum at Sacred Heart University on Tuesday evening.";

A new poll shows that two-thirds of Connecticut residents support the idea of charter schools. That’s one of the findings of the poll from the Public Policy Institute at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., about the current state of public education. 

Lesley DeNardis, executive director of the Institute, recently spoke with Morning Edition Host Tom Kuser to drill down into the details of the poll results.

Below is a transcript of their conversation.


Good morning.

Well, the poll focused on a number of things, public education quality, funding, safety, the Common Core Curriculum, as well as charter schools. Did you learn specifically what those who are in favor of charter schools like about them?

Well, that was not specifically a question. But we did ask respondents if they support charter schools, and we also asked them if they would support increased funding for charter schools. Charter schools in Connecticut are a very small percentage of the public school population but they receive maybe three-quarters of the funding a traditional public school. So we wanted to ask residents if they supported the formation of additional charter schools, particularly in light of the fact that about 4,000 students are on waiting lists to attend charter schools.

And again a majority, 66 percent, said they did support that.

They did, and I think that was an interesting finding because I’m not aware of any statewide poll particularly asking about charter schools. We thought it was an opportune time to sort of gauge sentiment as the state legislature is in session and budgetary negotiations are taking place having to do with public schools generally.

What did they think about the overall quality of public schools in the state and how did you gauge that?

So we basically gave them a question and we asked them to grade the schools in their own community on a letter grade basis: A, B, C, D or F. And we found that just over half gave them either an A or a B grade. About a third gave them a C or D, and the remainder an F. Overall I think people rate their public schools well in their communities.

So those differences…did the perceptions of quality change depending on where people lived?   

I believe that was a large factor and we do have, if you want to read the report online, the county breakdowns. And I think you can see that that varied a bit from county to county.

You pointed out, too, that Connecticut’s achievement gap in schools, between white and minority students, is the largest in the nation. And you asked respondents how they would close the gap. What did you find in response to that question?

The largest percentage said they wanted to see more resources dedicated to those schools and those students in communities where the achievement levels are lower.

So more resources, meaning increased funding?

Increased funding, yes.  

You took the poll in March and April.  


So that was pretty much in the middle of all the marches and demonstrations that followed the attack on the Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Fla. How did people respond to your questions about school safety?

Yes, that’s an interesting question, and it was right on the heels of that tragic event. We found that among the parents of school-age children there was a good amount of concern, I think over 60 percent, were fearful for their children. When they asked if their children were fearful, we found that there was a divergence there, where the children themselves were reported to being less concerned in the 20 percent range.    

Lesley DeNardis is the executive director for the Public Policy Institute at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. Thank you for your time today.

Thank you so much. I enjoyed being here.