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New Poll Shows Pennsylvanians Still Oppose Tax-Funded Vouchers for Private and Religious Schools.

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A new public opinion survey of Pennsylvania residents shows a majority continues to oppose tuition vouchers, despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision on vouchers last summer.

The new poll from Madonna Young Opinion Research shows Pennsylvanians oppose use of tax dollars for tuition at private and religious schools even though the court voted 5-4 in June to allow a limited voucher program in Cleveland, Ohio, to continue when it reversed lower court rulings that found the program in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Patsy J. Tallarico, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), today urged the Pennsylvania General Assembly to again reject legislation for tuition vouchers.

"Vouchers are an expensive diversion from real efforts to improve education," said Tallarico, a former mathematics teacher from the New Kensington Arnold School District. "There is no consistent evidence that vouchers improve student achievement -- for those students who use them or for those who remain in public schools. By contrast, there is strong evidence about what works -- early childhood education, smaller class size, teacher knowledge and experience."

G. Terry Madonna, president of Madonna Young, and Michael Young, managing partner of Madonna Young and public affairs commentator, released results of their fall 2002 survey this week. The survey of 805 Pennsylvanians was conducted between August 17 and September 17, (no interviewing Labor Day weekend or September 11), and has a 3.5% +/- sample error. PSEA sponsored the voucher questions on the poll.

The Madonna Young Opinion Research survey also found that vouchers are opposed by both Republican and Democratic voters, as well as voters in both urban and rural areas of Pennsylvania.

"This survey again confirms past research that Pennsylvanians do not support the use of state money for school vouchers," Young said. "This poll demonstrates that residents here look to other means -- smaller class size, removing disruptive students, additional help for special needs students, as better ways to improve academic performance," said Madonna.

Survey respondents were asked the question, "Do you favor or oppose using public funds to pay for students to attend a private, religious or parochial school?" Fifty-four percent said they oppose the idea, while 40 percent said they favor the approach, with six percent undecided.

Those who favored vouchers were asked a follow-up question: "Would you favor this idea if it means less money for local public schools?" Almost half the supporters defected; 34 percent of them shifted their support to "oppose" and 12 percent shifted to "don't know."

Pennsylvania Democrats oppose vouchers by a 57 to 35 percent margin (six percent undecided), while Republicans oppose vouchers by 50 to 43 percent (seven percent undecided). Rural voters oppose vouchers by 56 percent to 44 percent (six percent undecided), while urban voters oppose vouchers by 53 to 43 percent (five percent undecided). Rounding causes totals to not equal 100 percent.

The poll also asked how respondents would rate several proposals to improve student achievement. Vouchers finished last in the list of six, with 49 percent saying vouchers would not be effective and only 18 percent saying they would be very effective. Leading the list of proposals was requiring that teachers be certified in the subjects they teach (67 percent, very effective), followed in order by allowing teachers to remove disruptive students from the classroom (62 percent, very effective), limiting class sizes to 20 students in the elementary grades (50 percent, very effective), and hiring more teacher aides when special education students are included in regular classrooms (47 percent, very effective). Only 35 percent believed giving certificates to students for scores on state tests would improve student achievement.

PSEA represents more than 160,000 future, active and retired teachers, school support staff and health care workers.

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CONTACT: Wythe Keever, PSEA Harrisburg, +1-717-255-7107, or Terry Madonna, Madonna Young Opinion Research, +1-717-394-2164

Web site: http://www.psea.org/
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Date:Sep 30, 2002
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