Poll: NYers don't see Cuomo's ed proposals as top priorities

New York state voters said they aren’t crazy about the idea of a longer school day, a new poll shows.

Fewer than four in 10 voters responding to a poll conducted by Quinnipiac University’s survey center said they believe Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s extended learning day proposal should be a priority for Cuomo and state legislators. The poll focused on five of the proposals Cuomo floated during his ambitious State of the State speech three weeks ago, three of which are education-related.

New York voters were more open to his proposals to improve teacher quality, including a tougher “bar exam” and merit pay.

Cuomo is pushing most of his education ideas through competitive grants, and he wants to fund them with a pot of money set aside specifically for recommendations made by his Education Reform Commission. Of the $75 million set aside in his 2013-2014 budget, Cuomo is proposing to give a total of $20 million to districts that adopt extended learning time models, and $11 million for top-performing teachers.

The poll didn’t ask about two other education proposals that he mentioned in the speech, full day pre-kindergarten and more schools that provide health, mental health and other non-academic services. He has proposed to give those proposals a combined $40 million in grants.

It also did not ask about Cuomo’s proposal to continue tying state school aid to whether districts have teacher evaluation systems in place, the education proposal that is shaping up to be the most contentious.

New York voters told the poll that they wanted Cuomo and the legislature to tackle equal pay for women and campaign finance reform before education proposals. Equal pay for women should be the highest priority for Cuomo and lawmakers, 53 percent of poll respondents told Qunnipiac.

The education proposal that received the most support was merit pay for teachers. Forty-five percent of respondents said they thought it should be a high — though not highest — priority. Cuomo’s proposal doesn’t specifically call it “merit pay,” a term the state and city teachers unions staunchly oppose because they say it doesn’t lead to improved teaching. Cuomo’s proposal would give top teachers an extra $60,000 over four years to mentor other teachers in the profession.

Forty-three percent of voters said a bar exam should be a high priority. The idea has received support from a broad swath of people in education, including American Federation of Teachers President and former New York City Chancellor Joel Klein, who say it’s a crucial step toward raising the profession’s standard.

But polling respondents said they thought the least pressing education issue was extended learning. Cuomo has proposed to fund schools that can figure out efficient ways to add about 300 hours of learning onto their school year. In his speech, Cuomo pointed to higher test scores for students in extended learning environments as evidence of its success.

Just 17 percent of voters saw it as the top priority for Cuomo and the state legislature to pursue this year, compared to 26 percent for merit pay and 28 percent for a bar exam.

The idea was more favorable to black and lower income respondents, the poll found. Twenty-six percent of black respondents and 29 percent of respondents from households with less than $50,000 income said it should be a top priority.

Education in general was not the most pressing issue for many of the poll’s respondents. When asked what they believed was the most important problem facing the state today, 32 percent said it was the economy and 17 percent said it was taxes. Nine percent said education.

Another part of the poll, released yesterday, focused on Gov. Cuomo’s job approval ratings, which 15 points from 74 percent to 59 percent. The dip in his approval, still relatively high, has been attributed to the gun control bill that Cuomo and the legislature passed on the first day in session, circumventing the a three-day bill review period required by the state constitution.

But Maurice Carroll, director of Quinnipiac’s polling center, said he believes the dip could also have to do with Cuomo’s embrace of more progressive ideals during his state address. Cuomo has also hinted at a more progressive education agenda.

“Did you ever see a State of the State speech that listed about 42 different super-liberal proposals?” Carroll said in a radio interview yesterday.

“I think it’s fair to say that there’s an awful lot of dissatisfaction with the gun control proposals, but the other stuff is also dramatic,” Carroll added.