PROMO 64J1 Education - Academics School Book Statue Bronze - flickrcc - Alan Levine - public domain

Poll shows Colorado voters support school choice, teacher bonuses

© flickrcc - Alan Levine

By Derek Draplin | The Center Square

A new public opinion poll on K-12 education in Colorado found that the state’s voters strongly support school choice and better use of education funds rather than raising taxes.

Ready Colorado, a conservative school choice advocacy group, on Monday released the poll, which was conducted by Republican polling firm Cygnal.

The poll found 20 percent of respondents believe Gov. Jared Polis and the state legislature’s top priority should be “improving public education”; 16.4 percent said fixing roads and reducing traffic; 15.7 percent said environmental protection; 14.9 percent said cutting taxes and government spending; and 14.4 percent said improving health care. 

On school choice, 57.5 percent said they have a favorable view of school choice while 20.1 percent had an unfavorable view. Over 79 percent of respondents also said they support expanding school choice. 

"Colorado is a national leader in the school choice movement and it's clear there is broad, bipartisan support for a host of policies to strengthen and expand educational opportunity for all students," Ready Colorado President Luke Ragland said in a statement. 

A majority of respondents (56 percent) said they believe public education is underfunded, but nearly 70 percent said state government should “better prioritize state spending” rather than raise taxes, which almost 25 percent of respondents said should be done.

"It is also clear that voters are not willing to raise taxes for education, however, they strongly support policies that can improve student outcomes and boost teacher pay with existing resources," Ragland said.

A significant majority (66.8 percent) also believe teacher pay is too low, with the state average at $52,000 a year, and 28 percent saying pay is “about right.”

Several of the policies polled by Ready Colorado and Cygnal have already been proposed this legislative session by Republican lawmakers, who announced a package of education reforms last week.

Creating “child safety accounts” for bullied students that would allow public school funding to pay for private school tuition is supported by 53.8 percent and opposed by 31.9 percent, the poll found. House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, is sponsoring a bill to create such accounts. 

Offering a transportation stipend to bullied students to cover costs for using alternative ways to get to and from school is supported by 60.5 percent of respondents and opposed by 24.6 percent. Sen. Rob Woodward, R-Loveland, and Rep. Hugh McKean, R-Loveland, are set to introduce a bill offering a similar stipend to students.

Offering teachers performance bonuses also found strong support in the poll.

The survey found offering “highly effective” teachers $2,000 bonuses had 73 percent support, while offering “highly effective” teachers who teach in low performing schools $12,000 bonuses had over 75 percent support.

Sen. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, and Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, on Monday introduced Senate Bill 074, which would create a teacher bonus program and distribute funds to schools based on a formula. 

Districts could spend the funds as they choose and would be required to report how those funds are spent, Lundeen said, adding that he’s “highly confident they’ll spend it for teacher bonuses.

“I’ve argued this is great policy for a couple years now and I’m gratified that’s the way the people of Colorado see it as well,” Lundeen told The Center Square.

Another bill, SB 066, would provide bonuses to teachers in low-performing schools using grant money. 

The survey polled 636 people and was conducted Dec. 11 -13. 

The Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union, did not respond to a request to comment on the survey.