We went “live” at 8:30 p.m. Aug.13 with another survey probing for answers about the current education situation in Alabama. We were especially interested in getting reaction to the fact Governor Kay Ivey issued a statement on Aug. 10 in support of state superintendent Mike Sentance.
(This being after she declined a few weeks ago to evaluate Sentance because she said she did not know enough about his performance as superintendent to pass judgement.)
The data I am now sharing is based on 548 responses. Of these, 43 percent are public school teachers, 76 percent work in public education in some capacity and 65 percent have either children or grandchildren in public school. These numbers are very similar to ones from the last survey released on July 31.
In it, 61 percent had children or grandchildren in public schools, 74 percent worked in public education and 61 percent were teachers. The consistency of these numbers show we are doing a good job of reaching the education community, which is our goal.
Of this most recent sample, 47 percent identify as Republicans, 21 percent as Democrats and 33 percent as Independent. They are divided almost equally as being from north Alabama, central Alabama or south Alabama. We identified “city” as a community of 20,000 population or more and “country” as everything smaller. “City” was chosen by 40 percent and “country” by 60 percent.
It is no surprise that 88 percent of respondees believe the governor should not have made a statement supporting Sentance. Ony six percent supported the statement. And since the governor serves as president of the state school board, 91 percent think she should consult with other board members before taking action or making statements about education. Some 94 percent believe the governor should attend state school board meetings. (There have been 10 meetings since she took office April 10, 2017. She briefly attended one on April 13 but has missed the last nine.)
Governor Ivey is expected to be a candidate for governor in 2018. However, her support of Sentance cost her substantial support among respondees. In all, 53 percent said they would not vote for her if she supports Sentance and 19 percent said they will vote for another candidate.
These numbers are even more revealing when you factor out the 21 percent who say they are undecided. Then 67 percent will not vote for Governor Ivey if she supports Sentance and 24 percent will vote for another candidate.
In a crowded Republican primary, such as is expected in 2018, losing this many votes from a constituency as large as the public education community could be critical in determining the outcome.
And why do educators feel so strongly about the stance the governor took? Because they universally hold Mike Sentance in disdain. Should Sentance have been hired in 2016? Some 96 percent don’t think so, with only 1.45 percent supporting this hire. So it is hardly a surprise that 81 percent believe education is worse today than when Sentance took over and 75 percent say it will get even worse in the next 12 months.
And 91 percent say that under Sentance’s leadership, Alabama public education is going in the wrong direction.
Most politicians are usually quite good at having their finger on the pulse of people. In this case, Governor Ivey erred gravely on doing so. And for certain, many educators don’t feel she was thinking about what is in the best interest of our 730,000 public school students when she issued her statement on Aug. 10.