NEW ORLEANS — The public sees education as a top issue in this year's presidential race, and a majority resists higher taxes to boost teacher pay, according to a poll commissioned by the National Education Assn. and released today.
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 representing a "most important issue," 77% ranked the quality of public education at least a 4, ahead of a dozen other foreign and domestic issues including drugs, AIDS, U.S.-Soviet relations, nuclear weapons policy, the federal deficit and homelessness.
"The American people understand the need for change. And they clearly indicate, in this poll, that they want to make education a national priority," said Don Cameron, executive director of the NEA, which is holding its annual convention here this week.
The annual survey of public attitudes on education was conducted by the Gallup organization for the 1.9-million-member teachers union. The poll surveyed 2,113 Americans by telephone between March 31 and April 20, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2%.
It found that 54% either favored higher teacher salaries only if it means no tax increase, or opposed additional funds from any source for increasing salaries. Forty-three percent favored better salaries even if that raised taxes. The remaining 3% were undecided.
The poll also found that drugs ranked second as a presidential campaign issue, with 75% giving it a 4 or 5.