Public, Parents More Pessimistic About Direction of K-12 Education

INDIANAPOLIS, IN— As families finish up back-to-school shopping and American children head off for the 2023-24 school year, parents say they’re more pessimistic about the direction of K-12 education. Yet, a majority of parents express optimism about how schools are handling important issues, including mental health, bullying, and guns.

In partnership with EdChoice, Braun Research conducted the annual, nationally representative survey—which is now in its eleventh year. EdChoice researchers observed a substantial disconnect between parents’ schooling preferences and actual enrollment patterns. These findings, and more, are part of EdChoice’s yearly Schooling in America survey, which provides both timely insights and trends gathered over more than a decade.

“As we embark on a new school year, it’s important to listen to parents so we can better understand their experiences, preferences, and priorities when it comes to K-12 education and their children’s schooling,” said EdChoice Vice President of Research and Innovation Paul DiPerna. “We have conducted national surveys of the public and school parents for more than a decade to bring increased attention and understanding to vital education topics, particular in the areas within K-12 education choice.”

More than 2,000 respondents shared opinions on a variety of education-related topics, from the performance of local schools, to reasons for choosing an institution, to favorability toward a variety of education reforms that have dominated headlines this year.

“In the last few years, a number of states have enacted or expanded universal/near-universal school choice programs,” DiPerna said. “It is critical that we collect survey data to gauge awareness, positive and negative views, as well as the importance of information for affecting public and parent opinions.”

Some key findings include:

  • Seventy percent of Americans believe K-12 education is heading in the wrong direction, up from 61 percent in 2022.
  • Overall, roughly half of parents feel their child’s schools are handling bullying, violent behaviors, guns, and mental health “extremely” or “very” well. Public district school parents were consistently more negative than the average parent about how their child’s school handles such issues.
  • A safe environment is a bigger priority for parents compared to years past. Half of parents are either “extremely” or “very” concerned about the possibility of a violent intruder entering their child’s school. For comparison, only 21 percent of parents are either “not very” or “not at all” concerned. Safety was also the top factor for homeschool and charter school parents when choosing their school type.
  • There is a substantial disconnect between parents’ schooling preferences and actual enrollment patterns. More than 70 percent of parents would choose a type of school other than their local public district school, though 81 percent of students are enrolled in these institutions.
  • At least two-thirds of Americans support four types of educational choice policies, including education savings accounts (ESAs), tax-credit scholarships, vouchers, and charter schools. ESAs remain the most popular policy among parents and the general public for the seventh consecutive year.

“Half of parents show a high level of concern when it comes to school safety, and roughly 30 percent say student possession of weapons and physical conflict are serious concerns,” DiPerna continued. “These results reflect fundamental parent stresses and attention that must be prioritized. Providing parents flexibility to access other options is one such remedy that, as Schooling in America finds, is popular among parents.”

View the Schooling in America dashboard here; the findings report here; a summary of the findings here; and the questionnaire here.

To speak with Paul DiPerna, contact him at

About the survey

Braun Research polled 1,504 parents of school-aged children and 1,224 adults from the general population between April 18 and May 2, 2023 via online and phone surveys. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish (online). Weights have been applied to the respondent data to ensure the survey sample’s demographics are nationally representative. Read more about the polling methodology here.

About EdChoice

EdChoice is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. Our mission is to advance educational freedom and choice for all as a pathway to successful lives and a stronger society. We are committed to understanding and pursuing a K–12 education ecosystem that empowers every family to choose the learning environment that fits their children’s needs best. EdChoice is a charter member of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) Transparency Initiative and adheres to its standards and ethics.

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About Braun Research

The Braun Research network of companies, founded in 1995, engages in data collection via telephone, and internet for various survey research firms, government and advertising agencies, local community organizations, local and national business groups, foundations, universities and academic entities, as well as religious organizations. In more than 28 years, Braun Research has conducted over 11,000 research projects by telephone, internet, and mail worldwide. The work we execute requires us to perform all work up to standards required by the various research organizations such as American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR). Paul Braun has serve as a past President of the New Jersey Chapter of AAPOR.

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