Californians and Public Education

Views from the 2019 PACE/USC Rossier Poll
Morgan Polikoff
University of Southern California
Heather J. Hough
Policy Analysis for California Education, Stanford University
Julie A. Marsh
University of Southern California
David N. Plank
Stanford Graduate School of Education


With a new Governor, State Superintendent, and Legislators in Sacramento and a diminished federal role in education, there is an opportunity for California’s leaders to take stock of recent educational reforms and make necessary improvements. This report presents findings from a state-representative poll of California registered voters on an array of education policy issues. Based on our analysis, we have identified nine major findings:

  1. Across the full span of education issues facing California voters, the number one concern is gun violence in schools, and voters are supportive of a wide array of policy solutions to this problem. They strongly oppose arming teachers, however.
  2. Voters are also deeply worried about college affordability, which is the second most cited concern. This worry extends across demographic groups, and voters are also not overly confident that earning a college degree will lead to a middle-class life. That belief may be reinforced by their concerns about affordability.
  3. Voters are supportive of increased investment in early childhood education, but their support is far from overwhelming and is lower than support for initiatives to improve K–12 or higher education. Voters express a modest preference for universal (as opposed to targeted) early childhood investment.
  4. Voters are only slightly more aware of the Local Control Funding Formula than they were in previous polls, but participation in LCFF activities has increased. While both awareness and participation remain quite low, voters remain enthusiastic and supportive of the law.
  5. There was close to zero increase in awareness and use of the California School Dashboard, and awareness and use remain low, even among parents. Voters prefer the revamped Dashboard that was recently launched over the previous version, and they remain supportive of the ideas behind the Dashboard.
  6. Perhaps because of their support for high-profile education policies, voters are somewhat more optimistic about the state of California schools than they were last year. This is especially true for parents.
  7. Voters strongly support teachers’ right to strike, even when presented with a description emphasizing the possible negative consequences for students and their families.
  8. Voters strongly support a proposed constitutional amendment that is likely to appear on the 2020 ballot that would amend Proposition 13 to introduce annual re- assessments for business and commercial (but not residential) property.
  9. Voters are ambivalent about affirmative action when it is described using that name, but they are supportive of the idea that students from different groups should be given advantages in college admissions. They are especially favorable to the idea of offering admission preferences to low-income students. They strongly oppose offering admissions preferences to children of donors, which many institutions now do.

Note: This version of the report corrects an error in the percentage of voters reporting that they somewhat support banning and confiscating assault rifles (corrected from 29 percent to 19 percent).

Full poll results can be found in the Poll Archive.

Suggested citationPolikoff, M., Hough, H. J., Marsh, J., & Plank, D. (2019, February). Californians and public education: Views from the 2019 PACE/USC Rossier poll [Report]. Policy Analysis for California Education.