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

With the traditional school year fully underway, we are learning more about how different populations—the general public and parents as well as educators—feel about the pandemic response and K-12 schooling in America. As part of our ongoing polling partnership with Morning Consult, we also are monitoring how Black parents feel about what’s going on in their schools. On many issues, we find alignment with white and Hispanic parents, but we see some differing opinions on issues including vaccine and mask mandates; positive feelings toward homeschooling; and support for school choice policies.

Every month we survey a nationally representative sample of American adults aged 18 and over. This week we posted our full brief based on our polling of Black parents between Sept. 11 and Oct. 2. During that period, we obtained completed surveys from 461 Black parents of school-aged children, which includes an oversampling of 300 Black parents. We also obtained responses from a nationally representative sample of 1,207 K–12 school parents, which includes an oversampling of 700 school parents.

Here are some things we learned from our most recent wave of polling:

1. Willingness to be vaccinated among Black parents increased significantly. The share of Black parents currently vaccinated or planning to get vaccinated increased eight percentage points from August to September, bringing the total to over two-thirds. Willingness to vaccinate their children increased by an even greater margin, at 11 percentage points, which means more than half of Black parents had or were planning to vaccinate their children. Vaccination willingness is essentially level with white parents.

The increasing popularity of vaccines among Black parents corresponded with greater support for vaccination mandates in educational environments. Fifty-two percent of Black parents thought vaccines should be mandatory for teachers and other staff working at public schools, a 15-point jump from August. For public K-12 students, 40 percent of Black parents said vaccination should be required for students 12 and over, and 34 percent supported a mandate for students between ages 5 and 11, when applicable. Support among Black parents for vaccine and masking mandates exceeds support from white parents for all groups.

2. The gap between Black and white parents regarding comfort with in-person education remained essentially the same, but Hispanic parents’ comfort level jumped almost 20 points. Among all parents, comfort with children returning to school declined substantially from July to August. After a 31-point drop from June to August, comfort among Hispanic parents climbed 19 points in September. In September, comfort saw a slight uptick among both Black and white parents, climbing two and three percentage points respectively. Those results mean the gap between the two groups rose from 10 points to 11 points from August to September.

3. Black parents remain especially favorable toward education outside traditional schools. More than three out of four Black parents indicated their opinion on homeschooling has grown more positive since the pandemic began, up 13 percentage points since February. Homeschooling favorability among Black parents has grown every month since the end of last school year; in contrast, white parents have grown less favorable over that time period, and the gap between the two groups sits at 20 percentage points. That said, both groups are more positive about homeschooling than they were last winter.

For the second consecutive month, 23 percent of Black parents indicated that their ideal school week involved all five days of instruction occurring at home. Nearly half (47%) of Black parents said they preferred some mix of in-person and at-home education for their children, and the remaining 30 percent preferred all five school days per week to occur outside the home. The largest changes from September are in Black parents preferring two days per week at home (down eight points) and those preferring schooling completely outside the home (up 10 points).

4. Interest in learning pods has returned to typical levels. From July to August, the share of Black parents indicating they were in or wished to join a learning pod increased nine percentage points. In September, that share dropped nine percentage points.

5. Support for three major school choice policies remain high. For the third consecutive month, 81 percent of Black parents were supportive of education savings accounts (ESAs), higher than the average parent. Seventy-nine percent of Black parents were favorable toward school vouchers and charter schools.