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Tennessee Early Education Poll

2019 TN Voter Poll Summary

Since 2017 TQEE has commissioned Public Opinion Strategies to conduct an annual poll to gauge voter support for policy proposals to improve early education outcomes in Tennessee.  The most recent, conducted in November 18-21, 2019, surveyed 600 likely voters and has a margin of error of ±4%. Patrick Lanne was the primary researcher and pollster on the project. Daniel Luongo was the project director and Chris Andrews provided analytical assistance.

In the current partisan environment, Tennessee Republicans and Democrats often agree on very little. But when it comes to education, they’re strongly united in the view that the state’s public education system is on the wrong track. They are also united in their support for prioritizing early education as a solution to better prepare children for success and improve student outcomes.

Tennesseans across party lines agree that early education makes the difference.

  • Nearly every Tennessean understands the importance of early education programs to prepare children for the future. Fully 93 percent of voters – 92 percent of Republicans and 95 percent of Democrats – believe that early education, from birth to third grade, provides the building blocks of all learning.

Voters want more Pre-K A lot more.

  • By wide margins, Tennesseans support expansion of Pre-K for all 4-year-olds (94 percent); increasing funding for Pre-K (88 percent); higher investment for Pre-K classrooms for disadvantaged children (85 percent); spending for investment in improvements to Pre-K so that all classrooms are consistently high quality (69 percent); and expansion of Pre-K programs to counties that are economically distressed (91 percent).

Voters support investments in early literacy, math and “early workforce skills”.

  • Ninety-seven percent of voters say Tennessee should invest in early literacy programs to ensure children can read by third grade, and 93 percent want to invest more to establish math proficiency by third grade.
  • What’s more, voters clearly recognize the foundation for workforce readiness is laid in the early years.  Fully 94 percent support investments that ensure “early-workforce skills” in an educational setting to develop social-emotional skills that include problem solving, organization, cooperation and maintaining focus on tasks.

There’s strong bipartisan backing for child care and home visiting to support school readiness.

  • Ninety percent of voters believe child care has a major impact on a child’s readiness to be a good learner when they enter kindergarten, and 82 percent favor increased subsidies so providers can hire more well-qualified child care instructors. A large majority (71 percent) say that Tennessee should use all available federal funds to expand quality, affordable child care options.
  • Tennesseans like the concept of home visiting programs to boost parenting skills, reduce abuse and neglect and help young children get ready for early learning classrooms. A strong majority (79 percent) believe that Tennessee should expand home visiting options for more parents across the state.

The 7 Things You Need To Know

  1. Tennesseans continue to express doubts about the public education system’s ability to prepare children for the future.
  2. Tennesseans agree early education (birth through 3rd grade) is THE building block for a child’s future success.
  3. Voters overwhelmingly endorse initiatives to improve teacher training and student math, literacy and workforce skills Pre-K to third grade.
  4. Home visitation programs to strengthen parenting skills and get children ready for school are very popular.
  5. Expanding Pre-K programs receives very wide bi-partisan support.
  6. Tennesseans know quality childcare is critical to preparing children for future success. That’s why a robust childcare agenda is popular with voters across the state.
  7. Across party lines, voters endorse spending more existing federal aid to improve childcare options.

Key Finding 1

Few Tennesseans endorse the status quo in public education. Just 33% of voters believe the state’s education system is headed in the right direction while 58% of voters view schools as off on the wrong track. This pessimism cuts nearly all demographic and geographic subgroups.

Moreover, fully 72% of voters say the public education system is NOT preparing children for the future. A strong majority of voters across partisan, racial and geographic breaks share this outlook.

Tennesseans want a new approach to education.

Tennesseans Continue to be Pessimistic About the Direction of Public Schools

Public Education Sentiment By Key Subgroup

11/17 9/18 11/19
37% 35% 33% Right Direction
58% 55% 58% Wrong Track

Key Finding 2

Nearly every Tennessean understands the importance of early education programs to preparing children for the future.
Fully 93% of voters – including 92% of Republicans and 95% of Democrats — agree with the statement,

“Early education, from birth to 3rd grade, provides the building blocks of all learning.”

Tennesseans Know Early Education is the Building Block of all Future Learning

Next, do you AGREE or DISAGREE with the following statements: Early education, from birth to 3rd grade, provides the building blocks of all future learning.

11/17 9/18 11/19
86% 92% 93% Total Agree
13% 6% 7% Total Disagree

Key Finding 3

Voters overwhelmingly endorse policy proposals for improving Pre-K through third grade, with support ranging from 84% to 97%, across party lines.

Ensuring a high performing teacher in all classrooms PreK through third grade is widely supported, with 84% saying it would do “A Lot” to prepare a child for success in school and life.

89% of voters want more investments in early grades teacher training, and they think Tennessee should invest in early literacy (97%) and math (93%) initiatives that ensure children are proficient by third grade. What’s more, 94% support investments that ensure “early-workforce skills” are emphasized Pre-K to third grade.

Voters Believe Ensuring Every PreK-3rd Grade Classroom has a High Performing Teacher is Critical to Students’ Success.

I am going to read you some things that could be done to better prepare Tennessee’s children for success in school and their adult life. As I read each one, please tell me if you think it would do A LOT, A LITTLE, or NOTHING AT ALL, to prepare a child for success in school and life.

Ensure every pre-K through 3rd grade classroom has a high performing teacher.

Key Finding 4

Early home visiting programs to strengthen parenting skills and get children ready for school are very popular.

79% of voters favor these programs where a social worker is sent to help struggling parents cope, and which are cost-effective and can generate a return of up to $5.70 for every $1 invested.

Expanding Home Visitation Programs has a Deep Well of Public Support

Studies show home visiting programs where a social worker is sent to help struggling parents cope helps to strengthen parenting skills, reduce abuse and neglect and get children ready for school. In addition, studies found home visiting programs are cost-effective and could generate a return of up to $5.70 for every $1 invested. Would you FAVOR or OPPOSE a proposal to expand home visiting programs that support parents and families of young children?

79% Total Favor
19% Total Oppose

Key Finding 5

Partisan polarization is extreme but one policy where Trump and Clinton voters overwhelmingly agree is expanding Tennessee’s voluntary Pre-K program to all children. Fully, 94% of voters support it.

In addition, 85% of voters — including 79% of Republicans and 96% of Democrats — support increasing state funding for the state’s voluntary Pre-K program to ensure enough slots for all disadvantaged kids.

Moreover, 88% of Tennesseans – including 83% of Republicans and 96% of Democrats — support increased state funding to ensure every 4 year old has the option to attend.

Nearly Every Voter Supports Expanding Tennessee’s Voluntary Pre-K for ALL 4-Year-Olds.

Now thinking specifically about Pre-K in Tennessee…First, do you think Tennessee’s voluntary Pre-K program should be limited to children from economically disadvantaged families, or should it be an option for any Tennessee 4 year old whose parents want them to attend?

Key Finding 6 & 7

Tennesseans across the partisan divide believe childcare is critical for development and support investments to improve the system – including spending more of the federal aid available to the state.

Ninety (90%) of voters believe childcare has a major impact on children’s kindergarten readiness. And, 87% believe quality childcare has a major impact on children’s long-term well-being and future job success.

Of the 5 childcare policies we proposed, the support is very strong, ranging from 89% to 82% across party lines.

Moreover, 71% of voters support using more existing federal aid to improve Tennessee’s childcare system

Tennesseans Acknowledge the Importance of Quality Child Care to Short-Term and Long-Term Success

First, do you think that childcare quality has a major impact on children’s kindergarten readiness?

And, do you think that childcare quality has a major impact on children’s long-term well-being, and on their future job success?

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