How were parents feeling about schooling, just before the most recent COVID-19 surge?
A few weeks ago, we reported that public opinion trends were still relatively encouraging in early November. Today, we posted new polling numbers that indicated trends were still encouraging by mid-November.
Those data and signals pointed to findings for populations in aggregate, general public or among parents. However, we know through excellent reporting and other polling that the stories of specific populations are much more complex.
For much of 2021, EdChoice set out to amplify the voices of Black parents, Hispanic parents, teenagers and parents of students with disabilities, so that their opinions are documented and voices better heard. Under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic, Black families continue to respond differently than white parents on questions about vaccinations, masking requirements, in-person vs. hybrid vs. remote schooling and school choice policies, among other topics.
Our new polling brief is based on our survey of Black school parents between Nov. 6 and Nov. 18. We obtained completed surveys from 435 Black parents of school-aged children, which includes an oversampling of 300 Black parents. During this time we also surveyed a nationally representative sample of K–12 school parents (N = 1,199), which includes an oversample of 700 school parents.
Before we get into the key findings, you can visit this page on the EdChoice Public Opinion Tracker site for access past polling reports and briefs as well as demographic crosstabs and questionnaires. We also provide a more in-depth description of our methodology. Over the past two years, we have been cataloging education-related polls and surveys during the pandemic. Our K-12 Education Polls Archive is updated on a rolling basis, roughly a few times each month. Please don’t hesitate to let us know if we are missing any surveys, or if there are accidental errors.
1. In November, Black parents’ overall support for school vouchers had reached its highest level in 10 months. Strong support increased +13 points since February. Since late summer we have seen growing support for school vouchers among Black parents—especially among those who give strong support. At the first-quarter turn of the school year 52 percent expressed a very positive view for this type of school choice policy.
2. Black parents viewed mask requirements and remote learning options as a much higher priority than white and Hispanic parents. Based on the “net importance” numbers below we can see that Black parents were feeling much more strongly about prioritizing masking requirements and having remote learning options. There is considerable separation when comparing Black parents to white and Hispanic parents. The 20+ point gap on required masking and 15+ point gap on remote options are large.
Black, white, and Hispanic parents generally agreed on what was most important for schools to prioritize in November, including: resources, curriculum, transportation and communications. Overwhelmingly more than 8 out of 10 parents—regardless of race/ethnicity – felt these things should be an extremely/very important focus for schools in November.
3. More than two-thirds of Black parents signaled they would prefer having at least one day of school (per week) occur at home. That proportion of Black parents (69%) is much larger than the observed numbers of white parents (52%). One out of five Black parents said they would like to completely homeschool at least one child. The numbers for Black parents appear to have stabilized since September. Over the course of our tracking on this question, the data consistently point to opportunities for education entrepreneurs to meet parent demand for schooling alternatives.
4. Although Black parents’ comfort with their children returning to school continued to increase in the late fall, they were less comfortable than white and Hispanic parents. In November, 65 percent of Black parents said they were at least somewhat comfortable with their children going to school in person. That sentiment was roughly 10 points lower than expressed by white or Hispanic parents. The clearest opinions among Black parents (only 23% “very comfortable”, 13% “not at all comfortable”) hint that there’s substantial wariness and uncertainty about school attendance. How long will it take for the “very comfortable” response to reflect majority opinion? What will it take for that number to grow?
5. Black parents’ interest in learning pods held steady in November, with 38 percent indicating they were participating or interested in pods. Half of Hispanic parents reported the same to us. One out of six Black parents said they were actively participating in a learning pod, either to supplement or replace traditional public or private schooling. Both Black and Hispanic parents show higher levels of interest for learning pods, which has been a consistent finding during the coronavirus pandemic.
6. In addition to elevated support for school vouchers (mentioned above), Black parents continued to express their very high levels of support for education savings accounts (ESAs) and public charter schools. The strong support for ESAs has grown since we started tracking last February, albeit not as greatly as strong favorable for school vouchers. In November, half of Black parents said they were very favorable to both types of school choice policies. Overall support was roughly 8 out of 10 among this group. Three-fourths said they supported public charter schools. Nearly two out of five expressed strong support for charters.