In 2012, Public Education Network (PEN) closed its doors after 21 years. PEN was a network of local education funds (LEFs) -- community based organizations in high poverty school districts across the United States -- that continue to work with their school districts and communities to improve public education for the nation's most disadvantaged children.

At the national level, PEN raised the importance of public engagement as an essential component of education reform. It brought the voice of LEFs and the communities they represent into the national education debate. Finally, PEN gave voice to the essential nature of the connection between quality public education and a healthy and thriving democracy.

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Learn. Vote. Act. The Public's Responsibility for Public Education

April 1, 2004

Over the past several years, Public Education Network and Education Week (PEN/Ed Week) have systematically explored the degree to which the American public takes responsibility for quality public education, and the degree to which the public holds itself and its elected officials accountable for promoting policies that support quality education for all children. We have examined the priority the public places on education, what voters want from elected officials, and what citizens, including the 75 percent of adults who do not have children in school, have done and are willing to do to improve public education.This year's PEN/Ed Week poll, conducted with funding from the MetLife Foundation, reveals that the American public continues to see education as a vital national priority, an important investment in the future, and a major issue in the upcoming local, state, and national elections. What is particularly striking and encouraging is that, through the years, voters across all demographic groups have viewed public schools as the center of their community, and have placed a high value on public education. They see public education as the key to individual opportunity, economic growth, and community well-being. This year, even in a time of war and with concern over joblessness, the economy, and healthcare, education is nonetheless at the top of the public's "to-do" list.Another key poll finding is the critical role that information plays in every aspect of public schooling -- from ascertaining progress in school improvement, to ensuring that schools have the resources required to get the job done. Which tells us that, if we want people to take greater responsibility for public schools by taking civic action, or voting, or volunteering, we have to make sure they have reliable information on education issues. Americans need more information on what is happening in local schools, how effective their communities are in supporting quality public education, and what elected officials are doing to improve local schools.The public's responsibility for public education can be summed up in three words: Learn. Vote. Act. Public responsibility requires voters to learn what is going on in their schools, in their communities, in school boardrooms, city halls, and state capitols. It also requires people to vote for candidates that support quality public schools, and to act in a civic capacity to make schools better for all young people.

Demanding Quality Public Education In Tough Economic Times: What Voters Want from Elected Leaders

February 24, 2004

Four years ago, Public Education Network launched an annual public opinion survey that focuses on defining what Americans value about public education and what voters want their elected leaders to do to raise achievement for all children. This effort, conducted in partnership with Education Week since 2001, has consistently demonstrated that quality public education remains a core American value even at a time of increased threats to our national security and at a time of deep budget crises in all states.The results of this year's survey demonstrate that education remains a top priority for voters despite concerns over a conflict with Iraq, the threat of international terrorism, rising medical insurance costs, and growing unemployment. Republicans and Democrats alike rated education above health care, national security, Social Security, and job creation. And even those who have serious misgivings about the newly implemented No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) consider education the most important issue our nation faces today.

Presentation of findings from focus groups and a nationwide survey among 800 registered voters

February 24, 2003

Extended results of the national public opinion poll, conducted by the polling firm Lake Snell Perry & Associates, includes responses from 1,050 voting-age Americans, including oversamples of 125 registered African-Americans and 125 registered Latino voters, with a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent. Some questions were split sampled.

Accountability for All: What Voters Want from Education Candidates - Executive Summary, 2002 Results

April 26, 2002

Americans place quality education at the top of their list of priorities, and they want their elected leaders to do the same. According to a national public opinion poll published by Public Education Network and Education Week, education is a hot-button issue: Americans want their elected leaders to produce results, not rhetoric. They also want leaders who will make education funding recession proof.

Accountability for All: What Voters Want from Education Candidates

April 22, 2002

The world changed dramatically on September 11 and, in the days since, Americans have become more focused on security, on their families, and on their core values.More than ever, we are now a society in search of community, and we believe that quality education and good public schools are essential to strong communities. Quality public schools not only strengthen families, they are engines of economic growth and social mobility. They are essential vital signs, indicating that our neighborhoods are secure and that they nurture all our citizens.Americans recognize that providing a quality education to all children is vital to our national interests and can be achieved. The public also understands its responsibility to help improve schools, and recognizes the important role schools can play in making life better for themselves and for others in the community.Americans identify public schools as the most critical public resource in the community. At a time when most states face deep budget cuts, voters want their elected representatives to take concerted action to protect education funding even at the cost of deep cuts to other services they deem essential -- services such as healthcare, Social Security, law enforcement, and roads and transportation. As the PEN/Education Week poll shows, education far outdistances every other spending priority when the public is asked to identify programs that should be made recession proof. Indeed, there are strong indications that education will be a major political issue in the 2002 midterm elections and in the 2004 general election as well.This poll underscores the continuing power of education as a core issue in American politics. It shows what voters want from their leaders and how officials can best respond to the public's concerns.

Action for All: The Public's Responsibility for Public Education

April 12, 2001

In a society whose citizens have demanding family and work responsibilities, few Americans have the time, expertise, or the inclination to throw themselves into the challenge of making schools better. Like people who inhale second-hand smoke, Americans are increasingly breathing "second-hand democracy." Rather than taking major steps to address the issues that can ensure quality public schools and teaching for all young people, Americans seem content to watch a small, committed group of activists take the lead.In fact, fewer than half of Americans say they are actively involved in public schools. Many want to help but in limited ways and often only when motivated by a life-or-death crisis.The following report, Action for All: The Public's Responsibility for Public Schools, is based on a national survey of those who are registered voters -- who, perhaps not coincidentally, are the Americans most likely to take civic action. The report seeks to assess the extent to which the public is supporting -- or failing -- its schools. In an era of accountability in public education, the report seeks to define what the public should be held accountable for. More specifically, the report is designed to provide some useful answers for educators and policymakers about a range of issues: How does the public define its own responsibility for public education? What motivates the public to act? What kind of information does the public need to become better informed, and to whom does the public look to for reliable and trustworthy information?This report is the first product of a new partnership between the Public Education Network (PEN), the nation's largest grassroots advocacy network for school improvement, and Education Week, the nation's newspaper of record in precollegiate education. Each year for the next five years, PEN and Education Week will release a new national survey that will further explore different aspects of public responsibility for public schools.The bad news is that Americans say they have only three hours or fewer available to them each week to do anything to improve public schools. The good news is that the public actions required to ensure that schools are improving are not that difficult, expensive, or time consuming.What Americans say they can and should do is to better perform their traditional civic duties -- becoming better informed about education, increasing the pressure on elected officials to do whatever it takes to get better results for a broader range of students, and exercising their responsibility to vote as knowledgeable education consumers.In fact, if Americans were to do one thing that could make schools better it would simply be to become "education voters," who know the issues, know the candidates' positions, and use the power of the voting booth to improve schools.

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