California and Washington, D.C. Lead the Country in Education Petitions

Californians have started more petitions around education topics than citizens in any other state, while Washington, D.C. has a higher rate of education petitions relative to its population than any other state, according to a new analysis of data by Change.org.

Our analysis of education petitions drew on the more than 12,000 U.S. education petitions started on the site since 2010. Education is one of the more popular petition topics for Americans; they’ve started more petitions around education than around health, environment, or criminal justice issues.

California leads the states in total number of education petitions started, with 1,555. It’s followed by New York, with 1,066 petitions, and Florida, with 665 petitions. Education petitions from those three states account for nearly 27% of all American education petitions.

 

States by Number of Education Petitions Started (All Time)

Sources for Map
Petition data via Change.org
Population data taken from the 2010 US Census’ 2014 Population Estimates

Education ranking taken from Education Week’s 2015 Quality Counts Report

California, New York, and Florida are also all states that rank among the most populous in the country. In fact, seven of the top 10 states with the most education petitions are also among the 10 states with the biggest populations.

We saw a high correlation between the size of a state’s population and the number of education petitions it created. So, we decided to look at the population of a state in relation to its total education petitions.

California had one education petition for nearly every 25,000 of its residents. It ranks within the top 10 states for this population to petition ratio.

Why so many education petitions in California relative to its population? Education is a hot button topic in the state. Issues like budgeting, teacher tenure, and common core are issues residents care about and are covered frequently in the media.

 

Ratio of People to a Single Petition by State

Sources for Map
Petition data via Change.org

Population data taken from the 2010 US Census’ 2014 Population Estimates
Education ranking taken from Education Week’s 2015 Quality Counts Report

But Washington, D.C. has residents that are even more active education petitioners than those in California. There is one education petition in Washington, D.C. for every 3,500 residents. A ratio this low shows a population of residents that is extremely engaged in education issues.

Like California, D.C’s education system is often the subject of media coverage. Once considered the worst school system in the country, D.C. has made improvements to its schools after seven years of concentrated reforms. It also has a federally-funded private school voucher program that was established by Congress in 2003, which has often been a topic of discussion. All of this contributes to the creation of petitions.

Despite Washington, D.C.’s education improvements – it jumped 13 spots on Education Week’s 2015 Quality Counts Report education ranking in the last seven years – it still falls fairly low on that list at No. 38, as does California, which comes in at No. 42 in the country.

Does that mean that states with lower educational rankings have more education petitions because they have more to complain about?

Not exactly. For the most part, states that are poorly ranked for education have high population to petition ratios, meaning that people are starting fewer petitions in that state.  California and Washington, D.C. seem to be the exceptions, having relatively low ranking according to Education Week, but a lot of petitions started around education.

While there isn’t a direct correlation between education ranking and the number of people for every petition in a state, we did see a trend emerge in the data. Eight of the 10 states with the fewest people per petition – like Rhode Island (17,500 people per petition) and New York (18,000 people per petition) – also ranked in the top 15 on Education Week’s list. Rhode Island and New York are No. 13 and No. 9, respectively.  

What does that mean? Comparing the top 15 states on Education Week’s list with the bottom 15 on the list, it appears as if people taking an active role in education – by starting a petition or by other means – have more effective education systems in their states.