Cowen’s 2014 Poll: What Do Voters Think?

With the RSD becoming the first all charter district, there have been lots of assertions in the media about how New Orleanians view public education reforms. Tulane’s Cowen Institute recently released its 2014 opinion poll, and comparing these results with prior polls provides some insight based on survey results versus speculation.

School Choice

Voters generally think choice has had a positive impact on schools.

In 2014, Cowen asked if “choice has had a positive, negative or no impact on the quality of education in New Orleans.”

  • 53% said positive
  • 20% said negative
  • 27% said no opinion, no impact or some positive and some negative

Voters support OneApp.

When asked if all public schools in New Orleans should use a common application process,

  • 79% of voters agreed
  • 12% disagreed
  • 9% were uncertain or refused to answer

Voters overwhelmingly support school choice for families. 

In Cowen’s 2013 poll, 72% supported choice.

  • 54% of voters supported pure choice
  • 18% supported reserving 50 percent of the spaces for neighborhood children
  • Only 21% wanted a return to neighborhood schools

This support for choice has remained unchanged. In CABL’s 2009 poll, 

  • 77% of voters favored parents picking the school
  • Only 15% favored assigning students to a school

Return of Schools 

This August makes nine years since the levees broke, and it appears voters’ #1 option is to keep the current return policy in place – and this perspective cuts across past divisions.

In 2013, Cowen asked voters their preference on when schools should be returned to local control. CABL asked a very similar question in its 2009 poll. In both polls, the majority (55% Cowen; 52% CABL) felt return should be in the more distant future (3-5 years) or never.

In its 2014 poll, Cowen added another choice: “Stay with the current policy, which gives an RSD charter school the option to return to the Orleans Parish School Board when it is no longer failing.” Forty-one percent chose this new option – to let schools decide. Those who preferred to return schools in the next two years went down from 32% to 18%, and those who favored not returning the schools to OPSB at all went down from 35% to 16%.

These poll results are actually big news. We might have found a point of compromise that both sides can accept!

Do you think all RSD Schools should be returned to OPSB Cowen
(May 2014)
(Mar 2013)
(Aug 2009)
Within two years 18% 32% 21%
In the next three to five years 11% 20% 17%
Should NOT return to OPSB 16% 35% 45%
Stay with current policy: School decides once its no longer failing 41% N/A N/A
Uncertain/Refused 13% 13% 18%

Replacing Operators of Low Performing Schools 

Voters strongly support replacing operators of persistently D rated schools. 

In 2014, 68% of voters agreed that a school “persistently rated D” should be turned over to a different charter operator. In the 2013 poll, two-thirds of voters agreed that charter schools taking over a failing school created “the best chance to improve student learning” and supported replacing charter operators of D schools as well.

Other Findings 

  • 70% supported extending the property tax for school facilities.
  • 64% supported increased taxes for pre-Kindergarten.
  • 45% said schools are improving; 25% thought they are the same; and 18% thought they are getting worse.
  • Voters do not thinks schools are doing a good job preparing students for:
    • College – only 38% agreed schools are doing a good job.
    • Jobs – only 34% agreed.
  • Almost all voters think schools should do a better job with career and technical training (92%!)

For more information on the Cowen Institute poll, click on the links below. 

Voter’s Perceptions: Public Education in New Orleans, Spring 2014
45 percent of New Orleans voters say schools improving