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NEA-Alaska says Dunleavy misrepresents poll data

Dunleavy Says Majority of Alaskans Support School Choice Amendment



April 02, 2013

(SitNews) - The National Education Association-Alaska disagrees with the poll results released by Senator Mike Dunleavy (R-Mat-Su Valley) last week reporting a majority of Alaskans support the School Choice Amendment. NEA-Alaska expressed several concerns regarding the accuracy of the poll conducted by the Ditman Group.

"I have listened to the majority of the testimony on HJR1 and SJR9," stated NEA-Alaska President Ron Fuhrer. "Overwhelmingly Alaskans have said they are not interested in changing the constitution, which would allow public monies to be diverted from public schools. Providing misleading information to the public hurts our students. They deserve an honest debate about the impacts of SJR9, vouchers and any other legislation, such as tax credits, that could erode educational opportunities for the majority of students (94%) in the state who attend public schools."

“These numbers show a majority of Alaskans support our efforts to expand the public education system,” said Senator Dunleavy last week.  “Our opponents will tell you they haven’t heard anyone support school choice.  This poll shows when you ask everyday Alaskans, not special interest groups, you will find Alaskans from many walks of life support parents being able to make smart choices on behalf of their children.”

The Dittman poll is a push poll at best says the NEA-Alaska with the wording of the questions leading the respondent to the answer desired, making the results less than objective. For example question 38 asks, "Student graduation and test scores in Alaska consistently rank among the lowest in the nation, despite significant increases in overall state funding for education during the past decade. Given that fact, in your opinion should the state insist on demonstrated student performance improvements in our schools before increasing the state K through 12 education funding formula, or should student performance not be used to determine education funding?"

NEA-Alaska says the question leads Alaskans to believe something that simply is not true. According to NEA-Alaska, Alaska's graduation rates have increased by 10% over the last decade, three times faster than the national average. Alaska's 2012 graduation rate was 72%, just slightly under the national average of 75.5%. In addition, the question only uses one set of test data. While 4th grade NAEP test scores are low, by 8th grade Alaska students' test scores are at the national average. When measuring growth between 4th grade and 8th grade, Alaska ranks 3rd in the country says NEA-Alaska.

The poll asked 800 Alaskans whether parents should be allowed to choose where to send their child to school and whether allowing a portion of the public funds to follow the child would create a healthy competition and improve Alaska’s schools overall.  61-percent of respondents said yes.  Furthermore, an overwhelming 84-percent of those people said they would support amending Alaska’s constitution to allow a school choice program in Alaska.

“This poll also shows the majority of Alaskans do not think amending the Constitution to allow school choice will gut our public schools,” said Senator Dunleavy.  “They are not buying into the misconception that school choice erodes public schools.”

Dunleavy stated that the current poll also shows an increase of support as Alaskans learn more about what school choice means for students.   In a 2011 poll, 54-percent of Alaskans backed school choice.  In 2012, support hit 55-percent.  This year, the number has jumped to 61-percent.

Senator Dunleavy is the prime sponsor of Senate Joint Resolution 9, which would let Alaskans vote on whether to amend the state’s constitution to allow the use of public money for the benefit of all Alaskans seeking educational/training aid, regardless of whether individuals enroll in public or private institutions.

“SJR 9 gives voters the power to decide what is right for them, their families and the State of Alaska,” said Senator Dunleavy.

Senator Dunleavy's interpretation of the data is negligent says NEA-Alaska. Dittman chose to do a split sample on the topic of school choice. The figures cited by Dunleavy reflect the opinion of only 400 respondents. When the split sample questions are added together, the result is 53.7 percent of the 800 respondents would support amending the Alaska constitution. However, when the margin of error (3.4%) is taken into account, the percentage of Alaskans who support changing the constitution could be as low as 50.3 percent, according to Dittman's poll.

Senator Dunleavy also cites growing support for school choice. However, if one does not cherry pick the data, and uses the data in totality, the support for school choice has actually declined from 55 percent in 2012 to 53.7 percent in 2013 says NEA-Alaska.

Dunleavy said another noteworthy item in the poll was a majority of Alaskans (53%) would give Alaska’s public schools a grade of “C” or below.


Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


On the Web:

Click here to view this Alaska Public Opinion Poll (8 page pdf)


Source of News: 

Senator Mike Dunleavy
Alaska Senate Majority


"NEA-Alaska is a diverse organization of teachers, certified staff, education support professionals (ESPs), and retired members. With almost 13,000 members, NEA-Alaska is a democratic organization that promotes high standards of excellence in education for the children of Alaska through support of public school employees."

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