Public Opinion Tracker Deep Dive: Black K-12 Parent Perspectives (July 2021)

Summer break has been tumultuous. COVID-19 has contributed to a second consecutive summer full of uncertainty, concerns and disagreements about how schools should operate in the ensuing school year.

Black families have experienced COVID-19 and schools’ responses distinctly from other groups. Since February we have been tracking their opinions on K–12 education, COVID-19 and more.

Each month, we poll a nationally representative sample of American adults aged 18 and over. This week we posted our full report based on our polling of Black parents in July and early August. Between July 14 and August 7, we surveyed 452 Black parents of school-aged children, which includes an oversampling of 300 Black parents. We also obtained survey responses from a nationally representative sample of 1,228 K–12 school parents, which includes an oversampling of 700 school parents.

Here is what we learned in the latest polling wave:

1. Black parents were mostly comfortable with their children returning to the classroom, though slightly less comfortable than they were in June. Fifty-nine percent of Black parents of school-aged children indicated they were at least somewhat comfortable with their children returning to the classroom this fall, down from 64 percent in June. Notably, 59 percent is still the second-highest comfort level among Black parents since we began reporting and tracking in the late winter. We saw a smaller decrease in comfort among white parents. We observe a very steep decline among Hispanic parents—a 13-point decrease from June to July. The gap between how comfortable Black parents feel compared with how white parents feel is 17 percentage points.

2. Black parents’ positive views toward homeschooling continue to rise. A June Census Bureau report showed that the share of Black families that homeschooled their children quintupled from 3 percent in spring 2020 to 16 percent that fall. While few could have predicted a jump that substantial, our monthly polls have suggested school parents have been  expressing more favorability toward homeschooling because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When we began oversampling Black parents in February, we saw this trend was especially true for that demographic. In July, 70 percent of Black parents said they viewed homeschooling more favorably as a result of the pandemic, the highest share we have observed so far.

Relatedly, Black parents continue to include home-based learning in their ideal schooling setup much more than their white peers. Just 27 percent of Black parents say their most preferred school week involves all five days of school taking place outside the home. Nineteen percent ideally prefer completely home-based education, and 54 percent want between one and four days at home. In comparison, just under half of white parents ideally prefer learning to take place outside the home and 37 percent prefer between one and four days of school taking place at home.

3. Interest in learning pods remains substantial. Black parents interested in or participating in learning pods climbed 6 points to 37 percent in July. Aside from a dip in June, pod interest has remained roughly at this level since February. The anomaly in June could be attributed to optimism about COVID-19 subsiding enough for schools to operate unaffected this fall, or it could be an example of an “out of sight, out of mind” viewpoint as summer vacations were underway.

4. Support for three major school choice policies saw slight upticks in July. In July, 81 percent of Black parents indicated support for education savings accounts (ESAs), up from 79 percent in June. Eighty-three percent support school vouchers, an increase of six percentage points from June. Charter schools also saw an increase in support, from 73 percent in June to 80 percent in July. It’s worth noting that more than half of Black parents expressed that they “strongly support” ESAs—up eight percentage points from February.