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Report: Trust in public education has declined since the pandemic
The findings are part of a report entitled “Across the Aisle: Bridging the Education Divide, What Voters and Parents Want in Education.” The report was co-authored by Javaid Siddiqi, President and CEO of the Hunt Institute, and Bob Wise, former Governor of West Virginia.
Siddiqi and Wise report that growing dissatisfaction with public schools was greatest among Republican and independent voters. The declining perception of public schools has coincided with an increase in school choices and preferences, the two report. Forty-four percent of parents surveyed said they enrolled their child in a charter, magnet, private, or religious school because they felt the quality of education was better. In a statement, Sidiqi said the report gives policymakers insight into the issues voters and parents care about when it comes to schools. “This initiative was created to give policymakers accurate, unbiased insight into the minds of their constituents so we can turn speculation into reality and action,” Siddiqi said. The report is a follow-up to last year’s 2021 Emerging Priorities for Education Leaders report, which attempted to understand the education policy challenges and issues that were of greatest concern to the public. This year’s report examines whether priorities have changed. Here are the key takeaways from the new report:
- Current hot-button issues like book bans and curriculum censorship are largely unpopular. About 7 in 10 voters (68 percent) and 6 in 10 parents (60 percent) think book bans and curriculum censorship are a problem. It is also one of the lowest ranked priorities for policymakers compared to other issues mentioned in the survey.
- School safety in particular has a high priority in the eyes of voters and parents. Three in four voters (75 percent) believe guns and other physical violence are a problem in schools, and a similar number (73 percent) believe bullying, including cyberbullying, is a problem.
- Voters see additional mental health support as a necessary part of recovery efforts. More than half of voters (51 percent) supported investing in students’ individual needs, including their social and emotional learning needs. Additionally, 85 percent of voters believe additional counseling or social, emotional and mental health support would help students overcome the effects of the pandemic.
- A year later, learning loss remains a high priority issue for parents and voters. Seventy percent of voters believe learning disability is currently a problem, and 40 percent believe it is a very big problem. In particular, early literacy is a key public issue, with 70 percent of voters citing reading as very important for students at grade level.
Wise said the way forward is to strategically use billions of federal COVID relief funds to make greater investments in public education. The deadline for states to use US dollars from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) is less than two years away. The US Department of Education established the program in response to the pandemic. “People understand, or are beginning to understand, that there are federal dollars for education, and they want to do both,” Wise said. “They want to return to a new normal and use COVID relief funds to get their children back to school safely. At the same time, they understand that this may be the only major source of investment we have for a long time, so they want to make both short-term and long-term investments.”