Today, Mississippi First released Mississippi Voices: Public Perception of Pre-K-12 Education in Mississippi, a report revealing public perceptions of the issues that Mississippi First supports as well as perceptions of the broader public education context in Mississippi. The report is based on the responses of 504 adults in Mississippi. The 27-item scientific survey covered public education topics including, but not limited to, school funding, testing, charter schools, and early education; 11 demographic questions provided researchers background information on participants to ensure the sample was representative. The margin of error was +/-4.5%.

This project was a collaboration between Mississippi First and the Survey Research Laboratory (SRL) at Mississippi State University’s Social Science Research Center. In addition to conducting the survey, SRL contributed to this report the results of the survey as well as technical descriptions of the survey methodology, data specifications, sample, and weighting procedures. The report’s analyses and commentary, including comparisons to national education surveys, Phi Delta Kappa and Education Next, are the work of Mississippi First. Mississippi Voices: Public Perception of Pre-K-12 Education in Mississippi was supported by a grant to Mississippi First from the Walton Family Foundation.

Important findings from the report include the following:

School Funding

  • Almost none of the respondents could accurately estimate Mississippi public school funding. The vast majority of respondents (92.4%) in the sample did not know how much the state spent on public school funding per child each year. For those who stated that they knew how much the state spent on public school funding each year per child, the range of responses was quite varied, from $700 per pupil per year to $35,000 per pupil per year. Nonetheless, 26% of respondents chose insufficient funding as the most important issue facing public schools today.

Testing

  • Respondents expressed strong support for standardized testing. 57% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that standardized tests should continue to be required each year in grades 3 through 8 and in high school.
  • Respondents expressed strong support for common tests across states. 66% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the same standardized tests should be used in every state.

Charter Schools

  • A majority of respondents reported being “not at all familiar” with charter schools. 57.5% of respondents knew nothing about charter schools. White respondents were more likely to report some familiarity than non-white respondents (21.7% v. 10.5%). Wealthier respondents were also more likely to report some familiarity than low-income respondents.
  • When given basic background information, respondents supported charter schools. 55.3% of respondents support for having charter schools in Mississippi. 58.8% of respondents believe that charter schools would affect education positively in their community.

Early Education

  • Respondents expressed the strongest support for the importance of pre-K. Nearly 90% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that pre-K is important for preparing children for their continuing education. Only 8.2% of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the given statement. This was the strongest level of agreement for any of the agree/disagree questions that Mississippi First asked about any topic.
  • Respondents expressed very strong support for the need for the state to fund pre-K. 82.9% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that the State of Mississippi should fund pre-K in all school districts throughout the state. Only 10.5% of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement.

“Today’s report is a fascinating glimpse into ordinary Mississippians’ perceptions and concerns about public education,” said Rachel Canter, Executive Director. “Our strongest finding was the deep support Mississippians have for pre-K. Several of our other findings indicate that Mississippians would benefit from better information from trustworthy sources about school quality, school funding, and charter schools.”

The full report can be found online at Mississippi First’s website.

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The mission of Mississippi First is to champion transformative policy solutions ensuring educational excellence for every Mississippi child. Mississippi First is a leading voice for state-funded pre-K, high-quality public charter schools, and rigorous state learning standards. For more information about Mississippi First, visit www.mississippifirst.org or contact Executive Director Rachel Canter at 601.398.9008.

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