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Education measures that stress differences rejected by voters, poll shows

by John Kennedy | December 20th, 2012

Florida voters condemn the state’s new student achievement standards that are based in part on race in a new poll released Thursday by Quinnipiac University.

The state’s Board of Education in October set goals for reading and math that differ by race and ethnicity. Many parent groups and educators decried the approach, which state officials defended as being part of reaching accountability measures set by the federal No Child Left Behind Law.

The Quinnipiac survey, however, show most Floridians are skeptical. By an overwhelming 71-7 percent margin, Floridians said race and ethnicity should not be considered when setting achievement goals.

“Voters, with little difference along political, racial or gender lines, find setting different goals for different races to be distasteful,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“The data from this survey finds that voters like the idea of treating all students and colleges the same,” he added.

Indeed, the poll also found voters rejecting proposals being floated that would charge lower university tuition to students majoring in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, than those pursuing liberal arts degrees. The motive for the difference is that STEM students are more eagerly sought by employers and that advocates say these skills will be needed even more in the evolving job market.

But voters surveyed dismissed the tuition difference 66-26 percent.

Similarly, another measure advanced by the University of Florida and Florida State University — allowing them and eventually other schools to be designated “preeminent universities” and authorized to set their own tuition rate – also draws little support in the Quinnipiac poll.

Seventy-six percent of respondents said they didn’t like treating universities differently, while only 16 percent supported the approach.

Gov. Rick Scott’s recent pitch for state colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees that could be obtained at a cost capped at $10,000 also was greeted coolly by voters. Some officials have tarred the idea as a gimmick, and most Floridians seem to agree, according to Quinnipiac.

Sixty-six percent of those surveyed said they doubted the $10,000 degree would happen, while 29 percent said they thought such degrees would be offered.

The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute surveyed 1,261 registered voters the first week of December. The survey has a margin of error of  plus-or-minus 2.8 percentage points. Live interviewers called land lines and cell phones.

In other questions put before voters, the survey found Floridians’ opposition to same-sex marriage is easing — with 45 percent now opposed compared to 43 percent supporting such unions. Opponents had outweighted supporters by a 10 point margin in a Quinnipiac poll conducted in May — but now Floridians are roughly equally divided, with the issue likely to be shaped heavily next year by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Legalizing marijuana in Florida is rejected by voters at a 52-42 percent margin.

 

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