Ep. 292: Monthly Tracker – December 2021

January 26, 2022

In this episode, we share key takeaways from our December 2021 wave of polling as reported on our EdChoice Public Opinion Tracker.

Mike McShane: Hello. Welcome back to another edition of EdChoice chats. I’m Mike McShane director of national research at EdChoice, and we are here for our monthly installment of our Tracker Podcast. So for those of you that are unfamiliar, every month we at EdChoice in partnership with Morning Consult, pull a nationally representative sample of Americans. We ask them a whole battery of questions about education topics, school choice, the Coronavirus. And then once a month, we gather here to discuss it. So for those of you that have been listening for months now, welcome back, happy to 2022. Great to be with you for another year. Maybe if we’ve got some first time listeners welcome. I would just like to say on behalf of all of us, you are welcome here. Hope you enjoy the content today. And I got to tell you we’ve got something special today. I am joined today by my colleague, John Kristof. That’s not really the special part. Now, listen, John-

John Kristof: I was going to say I hope it was.

Mike McShane: Listen, John, erudite, thoughtful, insightful, well prepared. But at this point that won’t be surprising to anyone. If you’ve been listening to this podcast, you know he just knocks it out of the park every month. What we have on the line joining us today is the one, the only, the originator of polling at EdChoice, Paul DiPerna. Paul, it is great to have you here. I think we were discussing before this, it has been well over a year since you joined this Tracker Podcast and the Tracker is your baby. So there’s no person more appropriate to talk about this. And it’s frankly, just an oversight, a mistake. I don’t want you to take it as a slight that you haven’t been on this podcast in over a year, but welcome back.

Paul DiPerna: Mike. It’s great to be back. It’s our baby. So it’s shared among our family here at EdChoice.

Mike McShane: There we go.

Paul DiPerna: Yeah, I’m shaking off the rust, but no, it’s awesome to be here with you guys and really enjoy talking about polling that we do with you and to share that with the listeners here. So thanks.

Mike McShane: No problem. And for most of this podcast, I think we can set aside. We are recording on Friday, January 14th and this weekend there is an epic clash between Paul’s Pittsburgh Steelers and my Kansas City Chiefs. And as much as I would love for this to just be rife with acrimony, we’re not going to do that. We’ll set that aside. We can’t get through the entire podcast without talking about it perhaps a little bit at the end. We can make some predictions that may have actually worked out by the time the podcast is released. We’ll find out whether one of us was right or one of us was wrong. But to the task at hand, Paul, since you’re joining us on the podcast today, maybe before we get into this most recent month’s results, you’ve had the opportunity to kind of look at the whole sweep of the polling that we’ve done.

I would be interested as you’ve looked at this whole project, which again, this was kind of your idea. You kicked all of this stuff off. What have you learned? We’ve had the polls in the field for many, many months now, teacher polls, parents, everybody that we’re looking at. And since we haven’t asked you to sort of respond to it every month, maybe taking a step back of looking at this last year or the length of the whole project, are there certain things that have struck you that you’ve learned looking back at the whole sweep of it?

Paul DiPerna: Oh, yeah. There are at least a few things that really stand out to me. And yeah, we had started this project before the pandemic. So we had a couple months of polling that we had done before the lockdowns occurred in March, 2020. And then we’ve been doing these monthly polls ever since. And so one thing that stands out, so I guess thematically, we’ve seen a lot of ebbs and flows and change over the course of the last now two years, especially around the COVID related questions as they apply to schooling and parents and how they’re approaching their children’s learning as well as just how it’s being disruptive. And so through the story of the pandemic, I mean, I think it’s interesting just to see how particularly on the question we ask about how disruptive the pandemic has been to the respondent’s personal routine, their household routines, their community.

I mean, those numbers were at their peaks way at the beginning in March and April. So I think through the pandemic, that first chapter from March through May really stands out to me and with the lockdowns and just massive countrywide adjustment that happened. And then since then we’ve seen… Then there was a pretty steady decline in terms of disruption and people feeling more positive in the spring, summer, into the fall of 2020. And then since then we’ve had these kind of like bumps up of disruption, the surge last winter, and then some more declines. And then we’ve seen some more feeling of disruption at the beginning of this current school year. But relatively speaking though, the numbers we’re at right now, a quarter to a third of folks are saying that they’re feeling a lot of disruption now as twice the numbers at the beginning of the pandemic.

And so we’ve seen the changes there. We’ve been asking about vaccinations and masking and those numbers have also ebbed and flowed over time. And that’s been consistent with other polling too, that we’ve been tracking and following by other organizations who have been doing their waves of polling, whether it’s around education or just more generally around the COVID and the pandemic. And so that’s something that we’ve been tracking. John’s done a lot of archiving as well as our research assistant, Colyn Ritter, who’s really built up this archive. That’s free and available for anybody to use as a resource, just to see all the polling that’s been done. So there’s change in volatility we’ve seen around COVID, the pandemic. And then what’s been interesting though and there’s been some stability around the high levels of support for policies that we’ve been asking about in our polling and surveys for some time around school choice.

And so the high levels of support for education savings accounts, charter schools, school vouchers, I mean, that’s been fairly stable overall through the course of our polling with some bumps up and down, here and there on the overall support. But one thing that has stood out this past year since going back to January of last year is that the strong support numbers have been going up for ESAs, for vouchers. And so that’s something that we’re going to keep our eye on. So there has been some steady increases there. So those are just a few things that I’ve really been noticing.

And I guess one other would be just how these numbers, no matter what we’re talking about, a third, a quarter feeling very positive or very negative about the pandemic. I mean, that still translates to millions of people when you extrapolate that and you can see how social media or news media can amplify those voices and maybe paint a picture that may look a little bit different than what we’re up in the polling on average. And those averages tend to be what we report nationally. And so we all know the nature of this pandemic, which appears to be becoming perhaps more endemic and more localized. We see these concentrated disruptions where COVID has really played a big factor in different regions of the country and how it moves and spreads around the country. And so that’s the other thing is that there’s been polling or surveys or drilling down at the state and local level either by us or by others that also can be useful information.

Mike McShane: No, for sure. And I think that actually gives us a great place to start. So our most recent iteration of our poll was in the field in kind of mid-December, December 14th through 16. So we might have gotten the very first bits of the Omicron wave. It’ll probably won’t be until next month that we get the full picture of it. But I think we were starting to see some of these trends. One of the graphs that Morning Consult has put together for us, which I think is such an interesting one is this question, Paul, that you brought up about disruption, right? Of how disruptive has the Coronavirus been to you and what they do is they overlay the case counts.

And so you see, while it’s not exactly connected there at the beginning, because there were these big lockdowns that are perhaps obviously very disruptive for folks. After that period, you see some declines and then increases, but almost there’s a little lagging indicator behind that first wave around last Christmas and then dropping down and then a bit of an increase as sort of back to school time. And now it seems like John, as you look at this, maybe we saw the hint of a pickup there kind of going from October, November, December. Do you think that’s early Omicron? Do you think that’s just holidays? When you look at that graph, what do you see?

John Kristof: Yeah, the holiday picture does put a little bit of a spin on it. I’m tempted to consider that this is a kind of a bit of the early stages of concern about Omicron because the first confirmed case of Omicron in the United States was December 1st. And we had kind of heard about it outside of the United States a little bit before that. And so that’s a couple weeks passing before our surveys in the field. And I think because of the impact of Delta and how Delta was a little more disruptive to schools in our community and things like that. I think people were a little quicker to see Omicron and like, okay, if people are talking about Omicron, we’ve jumped a few Greek letters, we’re at Omicron and people are concerned about Omicron, maybe that’s worth me being concerned about as well.

Again it’s a very slight uptick and it’s not as strong as an uptick as kind of the case count increasing, as you can kind of see if people are following along with the graphical overlay that you mentioned. But it will be interesting to me to see if this carries through to our January edition of the polling as well, because it also feels like Omicron has been a bit of a lightning strike if you will, where I’m already seeing reports around the world.

And even in the United States, it kind of talks about, oh, is Omicron kind of on its way out? I don’t know. So maybe Omicron is just going to be this weird point in time of having this massive impact and it’ll still have an impact in future times as well in future months. But it’s just been so quick and shot the case count up so high, so fast that it kind of has no place to go, but down. And so I wonder what that’ll mean for sentiment in the long term. It’ll be interesting to track next month. You’re right, but I’m a little bit more, I don’t know if optimistic is the right word, this is not exactly it. I’m a little bit more sure-

Paul DiPerna: That’s great.

John Kristof: … that Omicron played a bit of a role in what we’re seeing in this month.

Mike McShane: I’d love to know that these last few years of the pandemic have not broken your spirit and that optimism still lingers and that’s great. Well, so Paul, I think as we look at our polling starting now, 2022 is an election year, not a presidential election year, but there are going to be a large number of consequential elections in November. And so I think people are going to be more interested in polling in so far as it might be able to give us some insights into what topics of discussion might be there. Who’s rising, who’s falling? And obviously, we don’t do the kind of partisan polling that you can find in any number of other places. But at least on some of the issues, one of the things that I found interesting, Morning Consult again put together this great graphic for us, about how people rate the response to the Coronavirus by different institutions.

And interestingly of the groups that we ask about whether it’s small businesses, schools, state government, large corporations, the federal government, at least now no one is underwater in the sense that if you take away the kind of people who say below average and poor, take that away from the people who say that it’s excellent or above average, you have local small business coming in at the top with a sort of plus 28. So 28 percentage points of people were more likely say they were doing excellent or above average than poor. Now the federal government comes in last with a sort of zero. So sort of the same number of people who think that they’re doing well, think that they’re doing poorly.

When you look at that and you know that there’s going to be obviously lots of political debate happening this year, do you see anything in there that it might be? I mean, schools are still okay, not as good as small businesses and it’s not a slam dunk. They’re obviously still lots of people that aren’t upset with that, but it seems to be a kind of interesting backdrop for these conversations that are going to be happening over the next few months.

Paul DiPerna: You know, it’s interesting. This question has fascinating me. It kind of flies underneath the radar a little bit in terms of how folks are rating these responses by districts, businesses, other kind of institutions and entities, public entities. And generally, this sentiment’s been rising and on average folks are feeling more positive across the board, across a lot of these institutions. And small businesses it’s interesting has consistently been, people have felt most strongly positive given the highest ratings to local and small businesses throughout as we’ve been asking this question. And then schools and districts have been pretty close on the upper tier of these kind of rankings that we’ve developed with Morning Consult. I think there’s a lot of talk right now about just divisiveness and protests and just a lot of angst and frustration at the local levels.

And that’s certainly happening. I mean, we’ve seen that in Chicago recently, in Northern Virginia and it’s playing out in school board meetings and school board elections, and even the National School Boards Association is under fire and they’ve lost 19 of their members in the last few months because of just some of the publicity around some comments that were made some time ago. And so that’s something we will be tracking. We just started asking about how closely folks are following education at the local level, thinking about local elections, state elections, and federal. And it’s still kind of in the middle of the pack. And it even went down a little bit this past month, which kind of counters the media kind of at least focus, or at least scenario where we kind of pay attention. Or it seems like that’s really been ramped up. But at least in our polling, it seems like that’s actually in December, that was a little… And that could have been because of the timing around the holidays.

And people just aren’t thinking as much about politics and elections and candidates and that kind of stuff. And so that may have played a factor. But this is something we’re going to track. It’ll be interesting to see, especially as John pointed this out, we just launched today, the current month’s polling. And so to see to what degree, everything that’s been happening in the last few weeks, in these local and state environments and will we see more disruption? Will we see these ratings go down, particularly for local government schools, districts for the state and their responses to the pandemic? Are people frustrated about a lot of these going back to remote, staffing shortages that are being reported in schools and districts now and how that’s really… It seems like that’s really playing a big factor in the disruption this time, maybe more so than in some of these previous surges, just because of the infectiousness and spread so quickly of Omicron.

So that’s something we’ll be tracking this year and just to see how these numbers shift, but it could be the next couple of months where we may see these numbers go down a bit if people are getting really frustrated because of Omicron spread and the reaction and response to it.

Mike McShane: Yeah. That’s the thing that I found really interesting in another graph that Morning Consult made for us. It sort of tracks these things over time. You made some reference to this Paul, but I look at the federal government. So in the previous bit, we’re talking about, okay, the federal government kind of comes in last. It’s at zero, but in January of 21, they were underwater by 30 points. So in some ways the federal government, they saw huge growth from January of ‘21 to kind of April of ‘21, massive growth in sort of belief. Now it never got positive in the sense that it maybe got less negative, people had less negative things. And it’s kind of hovered around there, dipped a bit kind of a back to school time, dipped up again.

So, yeah, I mean, I think it’s the same. John, I’d be interested in your thoughts. I’m kind of interested because I just think there’s been more in the news about the federal government and what the federal government is, or isn’t doing with respect to testing or mass. It seemed like in the past couple of months, there wasn’t as much discussion about what the federal government should be doing with respect to sort of anything. So maybe that is just something that’s happening in the news. Maybe that’s something that really will move public opinion. But as you look, maybe at those longer term trends, do you see anything?

John Kristof: It is a really good question. I mean, obviously we are in a completely different space now in December than we were in January. And you can see the most rapid growth in the federal government ratings as kind of when vaccines started hitting the market, if you will. From January to March, we saw rapid growth and federal government improvement. I think a lot of people kind of associate the vaccines with the federal government, for good or for ill. And then as back to school comes, you see a little bit of a dip, nowhere near as low as it was throughout 2020 and at the beginning of the year. I am curious what has changed in the last few months to kind of like ink it back upwards toward, I think this is the highest that we’ve seen the federal government rated since we started asking this question.

I’m a little bit confused as to why, it’s hard to identify exactly why. Obviously, there is some sense of overall positivity toward every one’s responses to COVID 19. You can see in the same chart, public opinion on state government responses is noticeably higher, schools, noticeably higher, school districts, noticeably higher. I think every public institution, every institution we ask about saw a jump in their net rating for their COVID 19 response that includes local small businesses, which already were super high relative to everything else. So COVID remains in the news. And I guess the best that I can come up with is I think people are still aware of COVID. People are still thinking about COVID, but maybe we are hitting some sort of equilibrium with COVID at least on an emotional level where we’ve kind of found with vaccines, with different resources that we have.

Maybe there are more people who recognize the issues with COVID and kind of appreciate the responses and the anti-COVID measures, but also that we have taken and different places have taken. But maybe also some of the anti-COVID measures that haven’t been taken, maybe there’s just a general sense of comfort with the “new normal” that we’ve been talking about for a while. It’s hard to pin down exactly why or what that would be from my perspective, but that’s the best signal that I think I can find here.

Paul DiPerna: I agree with John. I was thinking about that as you were talking about that, John. I wonder through the course of this, the last year and a half folks have been adjusting their expectations and so better for worse. And hopefully this is a two terribly cynical take, but the bar is being lowered to some degree in terms of expectations. And so that could adjust people’s perceptions and ratings of these, especially the government institutions and larger organizations, which people were initially giving poor or below average types of ratings when we first started asking this question.

John Kristof: That’s a good point. I think Brene Brown said that disappointment is expectations minus reality. So if we are just expecting, oh, COVID is going to be terrible this year again. I think as the new year came, I saw a lot less optimism about 2022 than I saw optimism for 2021 in the new year. So that could be a fair point about adjusting expectations.

Mike McShane: Under promise and over deliver, these are words that I have lived my life by, in personal and professional experiences you can never go wrong. But, Paul, you mentioned sort of when you were given the kind of 30,000 foot take of polling, this idea of the spread between even small numbers of parents or small percentages of American parents is still a lot of people. And I think one of the questions that’s been really interesting that we’ve followed for months now, I think since the beginning of the pandemic is asking parents, are you comfortable with your kids going back to school? And one of the things that I think is fascinating is that so much of the media narrative and stuff that people have talked about, depending on who you ask, you would think that that’s a 90, 10 question.

So there’s some people that go, oh, 90% of parents want their kids back in school and only 10% of weirdo don’t. But then you talk to other folks it’s like no, 90% want their kids at home. And only 10% of weirdos think that they do. One of the things that I found fascinating is that I think throughout most of our polling, it’s been pretty close to 50,50. And those who’ve been listening to this podcast have heard that over and over again, it’s been 55-45, 55-45 in the other direction, I think sort of broke 60% of family saying they were comfortable back in April of 21 or so. But now as we look at this administration, and again, there’s been conversations, this is mid-December, this is right before Christmas. So this obviously came to a head kind of, as kids were coming back after Christmas. But at least at that time, 74% of parents said that they were comfortable and only 22% said that they were uncomfortable.

And interestingly, this sort of don’t know, or having no opinion keeps getting smaller. So people are definitely sort of in one of those two camps, only 4% are kind of undecided. But 22% is still a lot of parents. I mean, so it’s very clear that we look at say obviously the overwhelming majority of parents are comfortable with their kids going back to school. But if a quarter of American parents still aren’t, that’s still a lot of folks, right?

Paul DiPerna: Yeah. I think that’s a great way of looking at it. I mean, at any one time, that number hasn’t really gone below one out of five parents at 20%. And it’s on average nationally again, and we aren’t able to do this, at least in our monthly reporting to really dive deeper, segment by states and those kind of concentrated areas where those disruptions could really, really be high or just prevalence of COVID could be really high, hospitalizations and such really high. And so I think we could be moving from… and people talk about this generally about COVID in the pandemic, moving from pandemic to endemic, and that could be applying as well to education where it’s just initially when things really happened in spring of 2020, it was very much a countrywide, nationwide focus. But the overall comfort has gone up by about 20 points since a year and a half ago.

So it was 53% in May of 2020. And now it’s at 74%, but about close to 40% say they’re very comfortable, but this isn’t really a winner take all system. When we think about public opinion in this way, I mean, it’s really about markets and these populations and groups and locations and where it could be affecting folks. And so it’s interesting looking at the comfort levels, it’s been two or three steps forward, one step back, or one step down if you’re looking at the waves of the historical trends on this question, we’ve been asking. And so I’m suspecting that with this current polling in the field right now, we’re going to see probably a step down in terms of comfort levels. To what degree and how steep, that’s varied when we’ve had these peaks and valleys on these trends.

And so we’ll see how long it lasts, but it does seem like, kind of going back to what we were saying a few minutes ago about adjusting expectations, this new normal that John and you, Mike had pointed to. I think we’re adjusting and those comfort levels seem to be staying up there at seven out of 10, three quarters, but they’re still going to be for probably, I’m speculating, for the foreseeable future, probably at least 15 to 20% of parents who are not at all comfortable for their kids to be going to school. And what do we do about that? And that’s where public policy and policy making and public decision making will play a big role in the future.

Mike McShane: And look, if that wasn’t controversial enough, let’s talk about vaccine and mask mandates. Again, I think this has been really interesting. So we ask a question, now that an FDA approved vaccine to prevent COVID 19 is available, do you think it should be mandatory or encouraged for the following groups? And we talk about teachers, professors, students, et cetera, and the mandatory non-mandatory. So that’s, if you lump together the people who say it should be encouraged, but not mandatory, or neither encouraged nor mandatory across almost all of these cases with a couple notable exceptions has really kind of hovered around 50, 50. I mean, some are kind of 52,48. So right now, so masks for teachers in public schools, it would be 52% mandatory, 48% not mandatory. Vaccines, 48% mandatory, 52% non. And as you kind of go down the line, you see a lot of those similar things.

So John, is this just baked? I mean, are we comfortable at this point saying that this is just going to be a 50, 50 thing, that these things are not… they’re not going to change. Could something changed this? I don’t know what’s sort of happening to change this, or whether as long as the pandemic continues and Lord willingness, this whole Omicron thing kind of burns out, and maybe we can be more confident in this being behind us. But that’ll just be the sort of final word will be, America was always kind of 50, 50 on this, or am I missing something?

John Kristof: Yeah, it is hard to say. There do seem to be more than a handful of things in American politics where you just kind of come to the table with an opinion. And that’s just kind of, it. I would be tempted to say that people are going back and forth maybe or changing opinions on the idea of mandates versus just encouraging things. But we don’t really see a change in the encouraged, but not mandatory camp either. Which means that we’re also not seeing much changes in people who don’t want them encouraged or mandated at all. Those kind of all hover around one in five. The only changes that we’ve seen over time really are for the vaccine mandates for kids, for students aged five and up. That number has kind of slowly ticked up over time. Those numbers are still lower than just about everything else at about 40% as opposed to 50, 50. But they used to be a lot lower, closer to 25 or 30%.

So over a few months, those have ticked up and maybe enough time has passed that people who tend to favor vaccines generally, but are super sensitive about the health of kids enough time has passed that they air comfortable with it. So that, and I think we might be close to hitting a saturation point on that account. So this might just be a signal that mask and vaccine mandates really are one of those issues, are some of those issues that are really just baked into partisan politics, maybe in the United States for good, or for ill. And maybe in the long term, when, if COVID gets behind us for a year or two, and maybe people kind of decouple COVID policy or feelings about COVID from maybe their political perspectives. Maybe we’d see some variation then, but that’s a longer time in the future. And that’s also when we care about these questions less.

I will note just real quick that while favor about vaccine and vaccine mandates have not increased a ton, we also do find when we ask people about what they’re looking for in schools or what they think schools should prioritize, the two aspects that have increased as far as more people think that school should prioritize this, is remote learning options and vaccine requirements. Everything else that we ask about like the other six or so categories have kind of remained the same to previous months. So I would say there maybe is a signal that the people who are favorable to vaccines in school settings have become more intensely so, perhaps even if they [crosstalk 00:29:03].

Mike McShane: No, I’m so glad you brought that up because that’s actually what I was going to ask Paul about. So we ask this question to school parents, based on your perspective as a parent, how important is it for schools to prioritize each of the following? And so as John said, we give options like the curriculum that’s taught or access to transportation from school or, as he mentioned, remote learning options, vaccine requirements. And one of the things that I think I hadn’t noticed that John, which I appreciate the change over time. Because in this most recent iteration, one of the things struck me was at the top two. And again, if we think of the net importance, so we take the people who say that it’s important and you subtract the people who don’t think that it’s important, curriculum taught and student resources and communications are at the top, plus 78, plus 77, plus 74s.

Everyone thinks that prioritizing the curriculum is taught. Very few people said that it’s not important or not important at all. But at the bottom of the list that we offer is mask requirements and vaccine requirements. Now they’re still positive. Mask requirements are still plus 41, more people saying it’s extremely or very important versus not. And vaccine requirements are still plus 26. One of the things that’s interesting is we ask these about things like vaccine mandates and mask mandates. But this gives some context of, yes, people have opinions about those, but where those opinions stack up actually matters as well in the sense that for some folks, if they say, listen, I think that there should be a vaccine mandate, but it’s not in my top 10 things that I care about. Sort of, I don’t know.

I think that the Chiefs should draft a linebacker next year. Okay, sure. That’s something that I think should happen, but it’s not something that my day rises or falls against, right? And when you look at that chart, Paul, I mean, do you see something similar? Do you see, again, we have these interesting sort of changes over time but everybody’s seeming to agree on focusing on curriculum, student resources and then just the kind of lower salient of these other issues.

Paul DiPerna: Yeah. And so I’m glad we’re talking about this and that was yeah, really passionate of John to talk about that change and how there have been some of these increases on some of these lower prioritized items. It’s been fairly stable. We’ve been asking this through the school year and we’ve seen communications, student resources, curriculum, transportation, those four have always been at the top and they’ve kind of changed positions here and there. Student resources, I think this is the first month that we’ve seen curriculum at the top. And I don’t know if that’s a reflection of some of these really high profile media stories and just public stories of debates around curriculum that are happening around the country. But this is something that we’ll continue to be tracking. And especially just to see if the prioritizing of remote learning these next couple months, the folks are being forced to quarantine for five days at a time.

And multiple times this semester through the winter, that could really change folks’ opinions about remote learning in one way or the other. But this also reinforces too, just where Americans and parents, particularly, we pull that data out for our report, where they stand on masking and vaccine requirements, to what degree they should be important. And there are just some differences there, especially on the negative side. There’s percentages saying that they’re not at all important, pull out much stronger negatives for those two items that we ask about compared to others, which are much more viewed as being a higher priority. So yeah, this is another one that I’d expect some changes at least in the next couple of months, because of Omicron, one way or the other, particularly for some of these kind of middle priorities. And maybe those will increase a little bit or decrease was the wealth to see.

Mike McShane: When the other big sort of thing happening kicking off right now in states all across the country are legislative sessions, 2021 was a huge year for school choice with very large programs passed, program expansions, a lot of stuff that’s happening. And so I think maybe the last little data or two data points, perhaps that we’ll look at given that we know in response to the pandemic and others, so many legislators, governors, et cetera, have talked about more school choice. And we know we’re already seeing debates in places like Nebraska. I think in a state of the state speech or opening speech in Iowa, in Virginia there’s conversation, lots of places discussions are taking place. And so I think it’s important for us to look at our polling on school choice. And particularly, I think something lots of folks have been talking about because of the flexibility that was required by the pandemic, but education savings accounts.

And if we look, I mean, our polling has been pretty darn consistent from if we track back to January of 21. So just looking throughout the past year, whether you’re asking parents or whether you’re asking all adults, do you support or pose when… We give a brief description of people and say, do you support education savings accounts? In January of 2021, we had 38% say that they somewhat support, 31% say they strongly support and only 5% say that they somewhat opposed and 3% strongly opposed. Fast forward a year later and what do we see? But 37% say that they somewhat support so that’s down a point, but it’s basically the same. 33% strongly support so up two points, 6% somewhat oppose so a one point change and strongly opposes the same 3%. So we’ve seen pretty much throughout the year and the parents is basically the same only just higher.

I mean 41, 36 for somewhat in strongly support in January of 21, up to 41, 40 in December of this year. So John, if I ask you to put on your political prognosticators hat, I don’t know what a prognosticator maybe you would wear a sash of some description or perhaps a cool jacket. But I mean, I look at the baseline public opinion and parent opinion at this time last year, and this time this year, when we see similar levels of this, should we expect similar amounts of another bumper crop year of school choice bills? Should we expect something different to happen? What do you see?

John Kristof: I’d like to give a resounding yes, we’re going to see another year of educational choice this year. I am not a gifted enough prognosticator. I haven’t worn the jacket or worn the pin or hat or whatever long enough to be a really credible voice on this. I do know that I hear there can be a lot of variables at play that are not related to the quality of the legislation at hand. I know people talk about legislation being introduced in an election year or in an off cycle year, whether it’s a budget year for a state that operates on biennial yield budgets, or whether it’s a non budget year, all of those things have nothing to do with whether school choice is a really good idea in a state or not. Or whether an ESA is popular in the state or not.

So what we do know is that people are kind of just as excited, if you will, about the idea of an ESA. When we put forth this idea to them, it makes a lot of sense to them. There’s a lot of people who understand it. I think that’s a big thing, is people get the idea of ESAs and those who do get the idea of ESAs, only 3% strongly opposed. That’s a crazy low kind of bar. So what we do know is that a lot of voters are very interested in the idea. And of course, when you look at parents as well, the approval numbers are even higher. I think it’s… what was it this month? I think it’s like 81% or something like that this month. So once again, just a super high number among parents as well.

The need is there, the want is there, the understanding is there, there’s a lot of examples of legislation that works. I’ve heard a lot of talk and I’ve kind of directed some questions through my role here. There are people who are interested in what was done last year. People are interested in what was the legislation that worked, people are interested in what are the ideas that have worked? And during my brief time working at the state house for the general assembly in Indiana, one of the questions that I would hear all the time and one of the biggest research questions that would come up all the time is what does this look like in other states, right? This is a topic that we’re talking about, what have other states done? Legislators are always interested in that, they want, if not a blueprint, they want at least a starting point. And they want some kind of foothold to show something that works.

And you had West Virginia and New Hampshire just passing massive ESA bills last year, that can be a foothold to stand on. There is a strategy that has kind of been shown to work legislatively, politically. So whether people will take that opportunity this year, there are so many factors at play that I can’t make that promise. I don’t know, but I think long term, a phrase that I’ve been using a lot is the bell’s been rung, you can’t unring the bell. You can’t undo the political victories that have happened for school choice and states all across the country. So I think more people, more legislators could very well feel like they have something to grab onto and kind of stand on shoulders of legislators that have come before them. So I don’t know if we’re going to see a repeat year, but I do think we’re entering a new era.

Mike McShane: Yeah. I like the almost a Berlin wall analogy, right? Once people got out of east Germany and they saw Levi’s jeans and Ramon’s tapes, they were like, I don’t want to go back. And so I think that you use the bell ringing, perhaps I want to be sedated as the way to look at it. Okay, look, so heavy times, we’ve talked politics, we’ve talked everything. Well, I asked John to do some prognosticating and it would be unfair to not ask Paul or I about it. But I think we might take it in a slightly different direction. As we mentioned at the top of the podcast, his beloved Steelers, my beloved Chiefs are clashing in Kansas City, this Sunday. So prediction, and then John, you can get in on this, if you want to. You would be, I think the unbiased person here, I can tell you the line right now, the Vegas odds, I think Chiefs are minus 12 and a half. And the over under is 46 points. Paul, your predictions.

Paul DiPerna: Well, we just got the news that Juju might be coming back from his-

Mike McShane: Okay, now.

Paul DiPerna: … shoulder surgery. So who knows, that could inspire for big Ben’s last run. So I don’t know. I’ll be honest, I am just thrilled that I’m able to watch a Steelers game in mid-January because if you would’ve asked me that in October, if that was possible, I would’ve just looked at you like, what are you talking about? So yeah. I’m looking forward to it. I’m trying to hope for the best and expect for something else probably on Sunday night. And hopefully, I know that you’re going to… Yeah, I think the game starts, what, at about 2:00 AM where you are.

Mike McShane: That’s true. Well, listen, I was going to have a stat for you because what I was going to say in a way where I thought we could bring it together, it would be that I think the Chiefs are going to win. But I am not sure at all that they’re going to cover the spread. And my great stat for you is I was going to say, I looked up the numbers just before this and against the spread, the Chiefs are only eight and nine this year. So they’re what, 12 and five normally, but only eight and nine against the spread. So I was like, listen, unfortunately, I then looked at the Steelers and it turns out the Steelers are also eight and nine against the spread.

So I don’t know if they’re necessarily but if you want my prediction, I would say, I think the Chiefs are going to win. But if someone happens to be in a state or country where it’s legal and you can gamble responsibly, my recommendation would be to probably take the Steelers and the points. But I don’t know. John, I don’t know if you want to get in on this one. Do we think Chiefs, Steelers, what do you think?

John Kristof: I got to be on… well, I don’t know about the spread. That is a very high number to cover.

Mike McShane: 12 and a half is a lot in the NFL, yes.

John Kristof: I’ve never put money on something like this. Anything more than popcorn with friends, but my general rule of thumb is to take the points whenever the points are double digits. And I think especially in a playoff game that I think that can be especially true. As far as who wins the game, guys, Patrick Mahomes is really good at football. He’s also really good in the playoffs. And it’s just so hard for me to not see him getting out of the first round. But what do I know? I’m a lowly Bears fan. We don’t know what a good quarterback looks like at all. So I’m just going to be rooting for the game in general.

Mike McShane: Yeah. Unfortunately, haven’t for sometime. Well look friends, news you can use. Lots of interesting stuff on the podcast today. Paul, John, a pleasure as always. Always fun to talk to you about this, looking forward to next month. And listeners at home, obviously next month we’re going to have, as Paul mentioned, a poll is just going in the field now. So I think we’re going to get a lot of the kind of back to school, second semester, 2021, ’22 school year, lots of interesting stuff, looking forward to seeing what they have to say. As always, we have to thank our intrepid producer, Jacob Vincent, the man behind the curtain that makes us all sound good. And eliminates… I just misspoke. And I should say maybe Jacob, you could take that out, but I will say that’s what I would sound like if Jacob didn’t help me out. But thank you so much, Jacob, as always. And I look forward to chatting with all of you again, on another addition of EdChoice Chats.