NEW IPO Logo - by Charles Larry Home Search Browse About IPO Staff Links

Illinois Issues Poll

The importance of being educated

This third Illinois Issues Poll was conducted by the Survey Research Office in the Public Affairs Institute at Sangamon State University. The regular benchmark questions were asked. In addition, questions on education were asked under contract with the Illinois State Board of Education. The findings are based on telephone interviews conducted from March 10 to April 9 with 790 randomly selected households. Readers can be confident that 95 percent of the time, results are within 3.5 percentage points of those that would be obtained if representatives of all Illinois households were interviewed.

Figure 1. Considering a list of important state services, "how important is public education as a service of state government?

Figure 2. Would you support an increase in the state income tax for improving the quality of public education?

Nearly 70 percent of those asked said that they would support a state income tax increase to improve the quality of elementary and secondary education. Another 12 percent said that they would support a state tax increase "if convinced" the alternative was a cut in important education services. All told five of six Illinoisans classify elementary and secondary education as a very important state government service. The Poll also found that 74 percent would be more likely to vote for a state legislator who supported a state income tax increase for improving education, while 16 percent would be less likely to vote for one.

Education continues to gain as the most important state problem. Of the 90 percent who identify a problem, education is now a close second to the No. 1 problem of retaining jobs and attracting business. Twice as many residents believe the schools have gotten worse over the last five years than believe they have gotten better. (This finding holds true among the 27 percent who currently have children in Illinois public schools and among the 69 percent who attended Illinois public schools.) Over 75 percent agree that improving Illinois public schools would help solve other problems.

The 1985 state reform requirements are strongly supported by the public. And, when informed that the state has not provided the necessary funding for these reforms, 63 percent believe it is very important for the state to find this money (table 3, No. 1).

Nearly two-thirds of the public also believe it is very important for state government to spend more on public education, after information was presented comparing Illinois to other states (table 3, Nos. 2 and 3). Increasing the state's share of education spending is very important to 56 percent, while the funding of specific programs for "at risk" pre-school children is very important to 47 percent (table 3, Nos. 4 and 5). Nearly two-thirds believe beginning teachers are paid too little.

Respondents were less clear about where the money should come from. Nearly six in 10 believe their local taxes for public education are too high. When asked which specific taxes should be increased "if a tax increase is needed to fund public education," a plurality (43 percent) identify a combination of major tax sources. The state income tax was mentioned as a sole source by 18 percent and in combination by 32 percent, the state sales tax by 16 percent and 33 percent, and the local property tax by 6 percent and 24 percent.

On nonschool questions the poll found the public's trust in state government unchanged from July, while the public has become more optimistic in other areas. Rated somewhat more favorably today are Illinois as a place to live and area economic/business conditions. □

In addition to attitudes toward public education, the Poll measured public opinion about the social, economic and political "state of the state," as it had in Feburary and July of 1987 (see Illinois Issues May 1987, pp. 23-23, and August/September 1987, pp. 64-65). Those interested in more information about the Poll or about the services of Sangamon State's Survey Research Office should contact Richard Schuldt: 217/786-6591.

May 1988 | Illinois Issues | 22

Figure 3. Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for a state legislator who supported a state income tax increase for improving the quality of public education?
Figure 4. What is the most important problem facing Illinois?
Figure 5. Compared to five years ago, have public schools in Illinois improved, gotten worse, or stayed the same?
Figure 6. Beginning teachers in Illinois earn, on the average, about $15,600 a year. Given their responsibilities, do you believe that beginning teachers are paid enough?
Figure 7. Do you think the amount you pay in local taxes for public education is too little, too much, or about right?
Figure 8. What grade would you give public schools nationally? And what grade would you give all public schools in Illinois?
Figure 9. Grade just the public high schools in Illinois, and grade only the public elementary schools in Illinois.

Table 1. Results of better schooling.
How much would you agree/disagree that improving the public schools would have the following results?
 strongly agreeagreedisagreedon't know
Workers with higher level skills47.6%45.9%5.5%1.1%
Future quality of life would improve38.1%55.9%4.0%1.9%
Reducing number of people on welfare38.3%48.0%11.5%2.2%
More businesss would be attracted to Illinois32.5%50.9%12.9%3.7%
High school graduates would get higher paying jobs32.0%52.5%14.0%1.5%
Fewer crimes and people in prison27.6%50.3%18.2%3.9%

Table 2. 1985 education reforms.
How important are these mandated programs?
importantnot very or
not important
don't know
Require that new teachers pass exams on basic skills and their subjects75.8%20.5%2.8%0.9%
Require that schools continually train teachers and other staff73.0%25.1%1.6%0.3%
Require that students be tested in grades 3, 6, 8 and 11 annually to see what they have learned67.5%29.4%2.5%0.6%
Require that teachers be evaluated regularly by trained administrators59.8%34.7%4.2%1.2%
Require that schools develop and publicize plans for improvement57.4%37.1%3.8%1.7%
Require that schools publicize what they expect students to learn55.7%37.3%6.2%0.8%
Require that each school publicize a school report card each year52.6%36.7%10.0%0.7%

Table 3. Importance of education funding.
Given the following information, how important is the following funding-related activity?
  1. Information: State government has not provided the annual $250 million needed to fund the mandated requirements; in fact, last year it reduced the funding.
    Activity: How important is it for the state to find the money to fund these new requirements?
    Very important: 63.3%       Not very/not important: 5.1%
    Important: 29.8%               Don't know: 1.9%

  2. Information: Illinois ranks 11th best in personal wealth and 45th in the amount of state government money spent per resident for all education.
    Activity: How important is it for Illinois state government to spend more on public elementary and secondary education?
    Very important 63.8%       Not very/not important: 4.6%
    Important: 29.7%              Don't know: 1.8%

  3. Information: Twelve years ago, Illinois as a whole ranked 38th in all the money spent on education per resident. By 1985, Illinois had dropped to 45th.
    Activity: How important is it for Illinois to regain the ground it has lost to other states in the amount it spends on public education?
    Very important: 63.6%       Not very/not important: 5.3%
    Important: 29.3%               Don't know: 1.8%

  4. Information: State governments on the average pay 50 percent of the costs of public elementary and secondary education. Illinois state government provides about 40 percent of the costs of public education — and ranks in the bottom 10 states.
    Activity: How important is it for Illinois state government to increase its share of public education spending?
    Very important: 55.7%       Not very/not important: 7.8%
    Important: 34.8%               Don't know: 1.7%

  5. Information: Evidence indicates that one of the most important things that can be done to prevent failure in school and in life is to help children at a very young age. Existing Illinois programs serve less than 6 percent of the total 170,000 Illinois children who are eligible.
    Activity: How important is it for the state government to provide the finances necessary to serve all these young "at-risk" children?
    Very important: 47.0%       Not very/not important: 13.5%
    Important: 37.4%               Don't know: 2.1%

May 1988 | Illinois Issues | 23

|Home| |Search| |Back to Periodicals Available| |Table of Contents| |Back to Illinois Issues 1988|
Illinois Periodicals Online (IPO) is a digital imaging project at the Northern Illinois University Libraries funded by the Illinois State Library