Survey: Michigan voters want lawmakers to prioritize public schools

Voters across the political spectrum want greater investment in school safety, higher pay for educators and expanded access to mental health services

EAST LANSING – Michigan voters say public education should be a key priority for state lawmakers, according to a new survey of registered voters released Tuesday by the Michigan Education Association.

Michigan voters across the political spectrum say they want lawmakers to address gun violence, increase pay for educators and expand the hiring of mental health professionals to help students succeed, according to the phone and text survey of 600 registered voters, conducted Dec. 15-20 by Emma White Research.

“Michigan voters of all political stripes are ready for policymakers to focus on real solutions for public education that address school violence, the massive statewide educator shortage, fair compensation for educators and access to mental health services that help prepare our students for bright futures,” MEA President Paula Herbart said. “This survey also reflects results of the November election, when voters elected the first unabashedly pro-education Legislature in nearly 40 years along with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a champion for our public schools.”

The vast majority of voters also say Michigan’s public school educators are trusted sources on education issues, and voters want both teachers and parents to have a say in school curriculum — without interference by politicians.

“Michigan’s hardworking, dedicated public school employees are the education experts, and this survey shows voters of all political persuasions want the voices of educators to be heard and respected when it comes to crafting education policy,” Herbart said. “This survey also shows the importance of a positive relationship between educators and parents — and an end to acrimonious political attacks meant to divide rather than unite them. A strong team is necessary to help all children achieve in the classroom and beyond.”

Results of the survey include:

  • 83% of voters say public schools should be either a top or high priority, putting it just behind the economy/inflation in terms of priorities. That rating includes 89% of Democrats, 81% of Republicans and 79% of independents.
  • More than 8-in-10 voters — including 93% of Democrats, 81% of Republicans and 77% of independents — say protecting students from gun violence should be a top or high priority.
  • 68% of voters place increasing pay and benefits to recruit and retain quality educators as a top or high priority, followed by 63% saying the same about hiring therapists, counselors and social workers to support student mental health. Improving access to two- and four-year colleges and trade schools and updating aging school facilities are additional key priorities for voters.
  • Broad majorities of voters support policies that would offer additional literacy supports for students, expand early childhood access and fix the teacher evaluation process:
    • 67% strongly support offering additional support to students who do not read at grade level, instead of making them repeat third grade.
    • 66% strongly support ensuring all Michigan families have access to high-quality public preschools.
    • 53% strongly support basing teaching evaluations more on observations that can help them be better teachers and less on students’ standardized test scores.
  • Large majorities also favor policies improving pay, benefits and labor rights for educators, including:
    • Improving retirement benefits for educators (47% strongly/34% somewhat support).
    • Ensuring educators have access to due process and can only be fired for just cause (44% strongly/34% somewhat support).
    • Increasing the amount school districts can pay toward school employees’ health insurance (41% strongly/33% somewhat support).

Further details about the survey results are available online.

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