Poll: California parents sour on public schools after pandemic
School choice gains popularity as closed public schools lost support.
More than a year of remote-only learning has left a bad impression on California voters, including many parents of public school students.
The results of a poll released Wednesday by the California Policy Center, a free-market think tank, show opinions of public schools staying closed resulted in a drop in voters’ opinions of them.
The poll conducted by Baselice & Associates from May 12 to 17 included responses from 800 California voters with 50% identifying as Democrats, 26% Republican and 24% independent.
Nearly one-third polled had a child in K-12 schools. Of those parents with children, only 26% said their kids were in school full-time.
Notable is the shift in opinion about the job public schools have done in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Voters were asked their opinion about public schools before the pandemic. Forty-two percent of respondents said public schools did an excellent or good job. They then were asked about the same schools in light of the pandemic. The percentage giving the same answers decreased to 31%.
One out of 10 respondents who had K-12 aged children said they had moved them to another school amid the pandemic.
“California families with the resources already have school choice – they moved their children to private schools or paid for tutors to avoid the shutdowns,” CPC President Will Swaim said.
The poll also asked about matters of school choice, namely education savings accounts (ESAs) that would give parents a portion of their tax dollars to spend on private education, tutoring or other costs. More than half of the respondents said they would support such a thing, with 71% of Black respondents and 66% of Hispanic respondents in support.
This attitude marks a significant swing from 2000, when Proposition 38, which would have created a school voucher program, failed by a 71-29 margin.
“California students in private schools – even Governor Gavin Newsom’s own children – returned to school in the fall,” Swaim said. “But millions of California students are about to enter summer break with no promise that they’ll fully return to school come August.”
Teacher unions in California had been the leading voice pushing public school districts to remain remote, stressing they wouldn’t put their educators in harm’s way amid a surge in infections. The poll showed voters most commonly thought highly of teacher unions, but they more often than not said they hold too much power.
The poll found 61% of California voters believe schools should have been fully reopened for in-person learning by the week ending May 17.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the United Teachers Los Angeles teachers union has yet to finalize an agreement with the state’s largest school district to entirely offer in-person learning in the coming fall semester. The state will fund public schools based on the number of students in the school learning starting in the fall.
Burbio, a community data aggregator, actively monitors 1,200 districts, including the 200 largest school districts in the U.S. It found California’s school districts to score the lowest on their “In-Person Index,” except for Hawaii.