By John Masusock and Steven Galante
John Masusock is a research intern at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and a sophomore at Rutgers University. Steven Galante is a Graduate Eagleton Fellow through the Eagleton Institute of Politics, a research intern at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, and a Masters student at Rutgers’ School of Communication and Information.
Despite escalating scandals, Gov. Chris Christie put forth some new proposals in his State of the State address a few weeks ago – perhaps the most noteworthy of which was a call for a longer school day and school year. But support for Christie’s proposal is mixed among New Jerseyans. In a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll January 14-19, 2014, respondents were asked whether they support both a longer day and year, support a longer year but not longer day, support a longer day but not longer year, or oppose both options.
A plurality of New Jerseyans – 41 percent – opposed both lengthening the school day and the school year, while 31 percent side with the governor and support extending both. Another 15 percent agree with a longer year but not longer days, while 9 percent favor longer days but not more of them.
Unusually for issues in New Jersey, partisanship does not have any effect on opinions towards Christie’s proposal. Instead, opinions of Christie himself and how he is handling the issue of education do. More than half of those who are unfavorable toward Christie oppose both a longer school day and year, compared to just 31 percent of those who feel favorably toward him. Conversely, those with a favorable impression of the governor are 15 points more likely than those who are not to support Christie’s call for a longer school day and year (38 percent to 23 percent).
Even bigger disparities are evident between those who approve and disapprove of Christie’s job performance on education. While 41 percent of those who approve of Christie’s handling of ”education and schools” support both a longer day and year, only 19 percent who disapprove Christie’s education performance feel the same. The sentiment is switched for opposition to the plan: 29 percent of those who approve oppose both extensions, versus 57 percent of those who disapprove. While disapprovers are split on whether there should just be longer days or just longer years, approvers are more than twice as likely to support a longer year than day.
Age additionally plays a big role. The oldest respondents (65+) are almost twice as likely as the youngest respondents to say they support the plan for both a longer day and year; almost half of 18-29 year olds oppose both, compared to 32 percent of those 65 and over. With the exception of the youngest age group, those New Jerseyans in the middle on the issue are slightly more likely to support extending the school year but not the school day.
Level of education also seems to have some influence. Those New Jerseyans with a high school degree or less are least likely to support the proposal – only a quarter supports both a longer day and year versus half who support neither. Those with some college or more are more likely than high school graduates to at least support either a longer day (with the exception of those with graduate work) or longer year, as well as to support both.
America is always competing for the best test scores and education ranking against the rest of the world, and there is competition on the local level, too, with districts constantly ranked in official school quality reports. A longer time in school could have many positive effects on students and their well-being. But there are many details that have not yet been divulged about Christie’s new proposal that will surely be an issue: building maintenance, meal schedules, busing, teacher compensation, and the additional costs to taxpayers – just to name a few. Whatever the outcomes here, the majority of opinion does not seem to be on Christie’s side for enacting both options together, but there is some support for some variation of an extended school year or school day. Just in case, students should try to enjoy those long summers while they still can …