Discipline and overcrowding top the list of concerns about public schools among county residents.
A public opinion poll released yesterday by the Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College showed that 21 percent of 450 residents surveyed cited discipline as the most serious issue facing public schools.
About 19 percent said overcrowding was the biggest problem. Inadequate funding and poor standards of curriculum ranked third and fourth with 16 percent and 12 percent, respectively.
But the most surprising revelation was that 70 percent of the respondents didn't have children in public schools, said Daniel Nataf, director of the center.
"As property owners, everyone has an interest in the school system," Mr. Nataf said. "They either have a direct material interest in that their kids are there or an indirect material interest because you want your community associated with good schools."
Mr. Nataf also saw a correlation between the top two problems and possible solutions. About 91 percent of those polled recommended adding teaching aides to the classrooms, which he interpreted as a way to curb unruly behavior.
"There's chaos breaking loose with 35 kids in one class and one teacher to handle them," Mr. Nataf said. "Many people think the solution is having another person there so that the teacher is not besieged with students and discipline problems."
He also noted that 81 percent of those polled suggested reducing class size as way to alleviate overcrowding.
"It's two sides of the same coin," Mr. Nataf said. "Overcrowding is a big problem [and] reducing class size is the preferred solution. The two things seem to match up."
Respondents were less enthusiastic about two proposals that have been widely debated in the county. Only 48 percent of those polled supported keeping some schools open year round, and 26 percent advocated redistricting schools.
The survey also showed that President Clinton enjoys a four-point lead over Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. About 52 percent said they would vote for Mr. Clinton in the fall. Mr. Nataf attributed Mr. Clinton's edge to a return to the Democratic fold by those who supported Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot.
"The Republicans are not defecting to Clinton's side," Mr. Nataf said. "It's the repatriation of Democrats and Perot supporters. That's the No. 1 thing."
Respondents ranked crime as the most important problem facing county residents. About 26 percent cited crime, with 21 percent citing education and 18 percent growth and transportation.