BOSTON—Voters and parents of Boston public school students overwhelmingly rank education and schools as the top priorities for Boston's next mayor and say they will support a mayoral candidate who will invest in improving Boston public schools rather than opening more charter schools.
The American Federation of Teachers and the Boston Teachers Union jointly conducted a survey of 626 registered voters in mid-August, with an oversample of interviews with parents of public school children who attend regular or public charter schools.
Education and schools will be the most important issues for voters in the mayoral election, said 69 percent of voters and 87 percent of parents. Voters also see public schools as the single most important institution for the future of their community. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of voters, and 87 percent of parents, said that the mayoral candidates' records and positions on education will be a very important issue in making their voting decisions.
In a city that just opened its last allowable charter school, Boston voters and parents say they want a mayor who will prioritize improving regular public schools rather than expanding charter schools. Given two hypothetical mayoral candidates with opposing views on charter schools, 67 percent of voters and 62 percent of parents rejected the candidate who would lift the cap on charter schools in favor of the candidate who would focus more on improving the regular public schools that serve the majority of Boston's students.
The split in favor of regular public schools was more pronounced when categorized by constituencies: 67 percent by African-Americans, 75 percent by Hispanics, and 74 percent by lower-income voters. Further, 74 percent of voters and 66 percent of parents oppose the idea of reducing spending on public schools and using the funds to open more charters.
Voters indicated they would reward the mayoral candidate who advocates investing in regular public schools and holding charter schools more accountable:
93 percent of voters and 91 percent of public school parents support providing extra resources and support to turn around struggling schools.93 percent of voters and 92 percent of parents support providing more after-school enrichment programs.90 percent of voters and 92 percent of parents want spending reduced on the school district bureaucracy and more money put into classrooms.90 percent of voters and 83 percent of parents want charter schools held more accountable for their performance, like regular public schools.89 percent of voters and 87 percent of parents support creating more community schools that stay open longer, provide extra academic enrichment for students and offer health services for families.87 percent of both voters and parents want smaller class sizes, especially in the early grades.
The results of the Boston poll track closely with an AFT national poll of 1,003 parents conducted in July. It found 77 percent of parents favored strong neighborhood public schools over expanding choice options such as charters and vouchers.
"A majority of Boston voters want a system of great public schools for all kids, not a good charter school here and there. Instead of outsourcing education, voters and parents want a mayor to concentrate on investing in strong, neighborhood public schools for all kids," said AFT President Randi Weingarten. "To reclaim the promise of public education for all children, Bostonians understand that it requires a laser-like focus on safe, well-funded neighborhood public schools where children have an engaging curriculum and access to wraparound services to meet their health and social needs."
Boston Teachers Union President Richard Stutman said the poll provides a vivid picture for mayoral candidates.
"We've hit the cap on charter schools, and Bostonians are saying 'no more.' The public wants a mayor who will make sure that all children get a well-funded, well-supported education in their neighborhood public schools," Stutman said.
The public wants a mayor who will collaborate with teachers. Nearly three-fourths of voters (73 percent) and parents (72 percent) said they hope the next mayor will work with, not stand up to, the teachers' union because teachers have important ideas for improving schools.
Nearly three-fourths of voters and public school parents support adding an extra hour added to the school day, with an even larger margin (76 percent of voters and 79 percent of parents) saying school employees should be compensated for the additional hours worked.