Ep. 336: Monthly Tracker – July 2022

August 11, 2022

Members of the research team discuss the results from July’s general population poll as well as responses to new questions.

Mike McShane: Hello, and welcome back to another edition of EdChoice Chats. This is Mike McShane, Director of National Research at EdChoice, and you have happened upon our monthly tracker podcast. As many of you all well know, every month, in partnership with Morning Consult, we poll a nationally representative sample of Americans. We over sample parents to get a nice big sample of what American parents think, and we’re going to be talking about the results of our most recent poll that was in the field from July 14th to July 15th.

Joining me today are my colleagues John Kristof and Colyn Ritter. Fellas, it’s great to have you on the podcast, as usual of course. So I think I’m going to start, and John, I’ll throw it to you to begin this. I was interested, we asked this question, the right track, wrong track question. Do you feel things in K-12 education are generally going in the right direction or do you feel things have generally gotten off on the wrong track? For those of you that have listened to this podcast before, you know general trend is that parents tend to be much more optimistic than the general public is.

So John, how do you see that slide? Do you feel things in K-12 education are generally going in the right direction or do you feel they’ve gotten off the wrong track? School parents, more optimistic than the general public, but I don’t know, what do you see in those numbers?

John Kristof: Yeah, there’s a lot of similarity to patterns that we’ve seen before with school parents tending to find more positivity in the direction of K-12 education than the general public. And likewise, the more proximate to that level of education they are, the more positive you are about it. So, only your local school district has a majority of people saying that they feel like K-12 education is going in the right direction, less so for the state level of K-12 education, or even less than that, nationally. There’s been some movement over the last few months in where the trends are going within this framework among school parents. In March, it jumped up a little bit, or rather April, it jumped up a bit from March, went back down in May, jumped back up about the same amount at the local school district level in June. We’ve seen a slight tapering off for all three from June going into July.

What that all amounts to is essentially since the school year began this year, parents have actually felt pretty consistent about K-12 education on all three levels, give or take just a couple percentage points, which margin of error, hard to make too strong of a conclusion. I think you can go even one step further talking about parents feeling fairly consistent. We did see a fairly big jump of parents feeling comfortable with the direction of K-12 education in November. November is often a bit of an extra politicized time, and it was last fall as well. That actually led to, we don’t know if it led to, but associated with at about that time, there was a jump in parents who said that they felt that K-12 education was going in the right direction. And then it took a few months to taper off back to about the level that it was beforehand about September, basically earlier that fall.

There really hasn’t been much shift from that since then. There’s a movement one month and then a movement the other direction another month, and it’s just been that for a while. So wherever we’re at in K-12 education right now, it’s been a while since we’ve seen a shock to the system, if you will, that would have made parents rethink their approach or perspective on K-12 education overall at this big top down perspective.

Mike McShane: Well, no, and it’s interesting that you bring up the politics of this, because another question that we asked, and now granted, this is all adults, not necessarily parents, but I think a really interesting one obviously in … We are recording this on August 3rd. Yesterday was a big day of primary elections across the country. Some of you may know both Colin and I are St. Louis University Billikens, alumni of the great St. Louis University. So there were primaries in Missouri, but all over the country. But we asked this question we’ve been asking for a couple months now. Thinking about your vote, what would you say are the top three issues on your mind when you cast your vote for federal, state and local offices?

And this month, the percentage of people that included education issues, normally when we track this, people are more likely to say that that’s one of their top issues at the local level, slightly fewer for the state level and slightly fewer than that at the federal level. One of these really interesting things that we saw was these numbers are converging on one another, where rather than seeing these big differences, these numbers are all very close. So in some ways that’s becoming less salient at the local level, but more salient at the state and federal level. Colin, there’s that old saying, all politics is local. Maybe something’s changing with that. But when you look at that convergence, what do you think’s happening there?

Colyn Ritter: Yeah. Thanks, Mike. Also shout out any Billikens out there who might be listening.

Mike McShane: Yes, and anyone who knows what a Billiken is, we highly encourage you to tweet that at one of us. And I don’t know, we’ll do something. How about that? Now we can find out people who listen to the podcast. You can tweet at John, Colin, or I. Tweet what a Billiken is and, you know what, I feel authorized, we’ll send you some swag. We’ll send you a t-shirt, we’ll send you a mug or something, but tweet at one of us what a Billiken is and we’ll send you some EdChoice swag. But anyway, Colin, I interrupted you.

Colyn Ritter: And bonus points if you are able to say which Billiken mascot is the best in the recent history, because there’s been a decent change and I think we might have abandoned what might have been the best version of the Billiken mascot. But back to what we were talking about, education issues, those numbers are converging. There’s a decrease of interest or prioritization of education issues at a local level and an increase at a state and federal level. We’ve seen this a couple times before end of 2021, they were all in a similar area. To me, these questions always makes me think which way people look at it because if you think there’s a higher prioritization, does that mean that there are more issues that need to be solved or a bigger crisis at a certain level of local, state or federal? So that’s one way of looking at it, but also if there’s a lot of people selecting education issues as one of their top three issues, then there’s a lot of passion there and maybe that’s a good thing. So I always wonder which way people look at it.

But what I noticed that was interesting is that education issues typically go the other way around. You’re going to see a lot of passion at the local level, the state and federal lag behind. But this, especially at a federal level, we had a six point increase from June. The state had a three point increase and education issues at a local level fell. One solution or one cause for this might be the fact that women’s issues this month, obviously in this post Roe versus Wade world, saw a sharp increase at a local and state level, less so at a federal level, and obviously economic issues are capturing a ton of attention, almost 60% across the board. And summertime is obviously going to be a time where education issues aren’t totally on the mind, especially in July. August, I expect to see a little bit of a bump across the board.

But yeah, it’s interesting. If I had to guess, I think that we’ll see local once the school year starts August, September time. Everything’s right in front of you. At a local level education, we’ll probably see a bump, but I would be curious to see, because we’ve seen since June, so now two straight months, state and federal prioritization of education issues at those levels have increased. So there is a chance they could keep going up. Ultimately I’m of the belief that the more passion, the more people prioritizing these things, that’s a good thing. That means more change can happen or there’s just people taking more of an interest in it. So we’ll see where it goes. I’m hoping it continues to rise, and I fully expect local office prioritization of education issues to rise as well.

Mike McShane: For sure. So now changing gears a little bit, we asked some questions of parents, school choice related question. This is an old question that we’ve asked in Schooling in America a lot. I think it may be new to the tracker. Maybe we’ve asked it at some points and not others, but I think it’s one of the most interesting polling questions about things like parental preferences. We asked parents of children if given the option, what type of school would you select in order to obtain the best education for your child? Now we’ve played around with the language as well. We’ve included things to make it very clear, if given the option and added a parenthetical, and neither financial costs nor transportation were factors, what type of school would you choose? It turns out the numbers end up basically the same.

So we have this thing. If given the option, what type of school would you select in order to obtain a best education for your child, amongst all school parents, 37% said they would pick a private school, 37% said that they would pick a traditional public school, 12% said that they would homeschool, 10% said that they would send their children to a charter school, and then the last little bit there either don’t know or don’t have an opinion. John, when you look at those numbers, what stands out to you?

John Kristof: This is a question in various forms that we have asked at EdChoice for a long time. We’ve asked it forever in our Schooling in America survey, which is a big national survey that we do every year. 2022 version coming soon. Look out for that. So it’s a question that we’ve asked for a long time and I think we … At least I’ll speak for myself. Sometimes the questions that we ask for a long time can have very interesting and powerful implications, but because we see it a lot, we forget how powerful it is. And looking at this question this time around, I’m reminded of one of the most frequent and most annoying to me quips that I can see from some advocates against educational choice, one of the most frequent claims from them that I see is that, oh, we need to be focusing our K-12 education policy on the 90% of kids who are actually in public schools. The first less important, but I’m petty thing is number one. That means that you recognize that charter schools are public schools because that’s how you get to that 90% number, so cheers for that.

But secondly, it’s a really fascinating idea that you think that you can claim that 90% of people are choosing public schools. The actual number’s closer to the 83% if you want to take charters out of the equation. To claim that 83% of people are choosing public schools and that’s why we should focus K-12 education on public schools doesn’t really make a lot of sense when you have a choice of one in most of the cases. And when you ask a question like this, hey, expand your imagination. Let’s say that the choice was really up to you. Where would you send your kid to school? And not surprisingly, the percentage of parents who say that they would send their kids to a public district school drops by about half the share of kids that actually do attend public school. In other words, a lot fewer parents say that they would ideally send their kid to a public district school than actually do.

Now, of course, a lot of parents still say that they do want to send their kid to a public district school, which is fine. We also see that pretty revealed in realty markets. There’s a big national survey that a major realtor association, a big survey that they do every year finds that proximity to and being districted in a school that you like is the thing that home buyers are least likely to compromise on. So people do make some very expensive and committed decisions to choosing public district schools, and that might always be the case. But there’s a lot of other people where if they are invited to imagine what kind of school they would prefer, they’re choosing other things too and a lot of it is private school. There’s a huge increase. The share of parents who say that they would ideally prefer a private school is several times higher than the share of parents who actually do send their kid to private school. The share of parents who say that they refer to homeschool their kids is maybe roughly like three times higher than the share that actually do homeschool their kids. That depends on the homeschooling numbers you look at, of course, it can kind of get weird sometimes.

The share of parents who say that they would prefer a charter school is about twice as high to those that actually do send their kid to a charter school, which isn’t necessarily surprising considering that there are a lot of states where there are really restrictive charter laws, and maybe you don’t have access to a charter school at all, or a kind of charter school that you’re interested in. So I think this is one of the most important things to keep in mind as someone interested in advancing educational freedom, because this is the chart that comes to my mind. This is the data that comes to my mind most frequently when I hear for the hundredth time in a year, “Oh, focus on the 83% of kids who attend public schools, because their parents have chosen that.” Most parents don’t have choice and when you invite them to think about what they would do when they do have choice, the picture looks much different and it’s pretty clear that parents’ ideal education system does not look like what it does right now.

Mike McShane: Yeah, and it’s funny I actually thought of a sort of different kind of anti-school choice talking point that these numbers kind of put lie to. Another one that you hear is if we have a system of school vouchers or school choice, whatever you want to call it, education savings account, that’ll be the end of public schools. Everyone will go to private schools or they’ll go to other of these places, there’ll be no more public schools. Obviously, number one, it’s not really a ringing endorsement of public schools where it’s like, “Well, folks only go to them because they have to. If they had any choices, they’d leave so we have to keep them there.” Setting that aside, if you look here, 37% of parents say that they would want to send their kids to traditional public schools. I mean, if you throw charter schools in there, it’s almost half, right?

There’s 50 million families in America, 55 million, depending on how you sort of count kids. 37% of that is still a heck of a lot of people. That’s still a lot of people who that’s their first choice and there may be other logistical reasons why that doesn’t happen. So even in this sort of utopian system where every person goes and gets their preferences, you still have a huge traditional public school system. It’s still there because lots of people like it. It’s just that some of the other sectors grow. Again, it’s like people say, “If we have charter schools, everyone will go to charter school.” Not only 10% of people want to send their kids to them. Now again, John, I think you make a very good point, that that’s twice what it is now and so there’s a place for it to grow. But some of these tales that you hear, suddenly every school’s going to become a charter school, it’s like, “No, no parents don’t really want that, people don’t want that.”

But getting into these preferences, another cool question that we’ve asked starting this month is to dig into the reasons for school choice. So why do people pick the schools that they do? So we ask parents and in sort of survey lingo, we ask them to think of their youngest child or their oldest child. If they have different kids going to different schools, we ask them to pick one and talk about that child. So we ask, “Why did you enroll your child in that school type?” And we asked them to select the most important reason. The most important reason that we saw was location, 44% of school parents said that’s why they chose it. Next was safe environment, 31%. Academic quality, 28%. Affordability, 25% and then it sort of tails off. We’ve got 8, 10 after that. Colyn, did any of those numbers strike? You were surprised by any of those numbers? Were any of them ones that you thought had a lot of kind explanatory power?

Colyn Ritter: No. I mean, the running away with it in terms of location, like 44% compared to the next highest reason being 31% kind of stood out a little bit. But I think that if you look at it, the next slide breaks it down by type of schooling and you’ll find that most of that number is pumped up by district school parents, public school parents, which totally makes sense, right? Exactly what John just talked about. And then safe environment and academic quality, that’s to me of where you’ll see more of… Obviously I can see the next one where it’s broken out by schooling type, but like homeschool parents and private school parents you’ll see are probably propping those numbers up and pretty substantially. Affordability and location, kind of affordability was the fourth highest reason at 25%. That kind of lumped that in with location to a certain extent just because it’s, I mean, just ease of getting the kid there or just easier for the parent type of thing.

I do like to look… I may have mentioned it a couple times already, but the reasons why, and then breaking it down by the type of parent, so homeschooling parent, private school parent, district school parents. District school parents, there’s a large gap between the first and the second reason and it is location and affordability. Safe environment comes in third there with just over a quarter of district school parents listed that as their most important reason. Safe environment was more heavily prioritized among private school parents and homeschooling parents, nearly half of private school parents listed safe environment along with academic qualities and especially in today’s world where school safety is still very salient. I mean, we’ve begun at a choice asking questions about school safety so there’s people wanting to talk about it there. So safe environment I’d expect to see that grow. Yeah, not too surprising, I’d say location is… I probably would’ve guessed it was number one and that came from the majority of those parents being district school parents, I think.

Mike McShane: No, that’s a really good point. Yeah, I’m glad that you brought that up because it is important that we think about. So we poll school parents and so the school parents demographically, we try and get as close as possible to look like American and as a result of that, our findings are kind of skewed by public school parents because most people send their kids to traditional public schools. So sometimes these things, when we look at all parents, again, things like affordability or religious values or something, well, most of the public school parents are not saying that they’re for those so that could kind of skew it. So because you’re right, because we broke it down into homeschool parents, private school parents and district school parents and as you mentioned, location was the most important.

What I found kind of interesting was across those three groups, if you look at the top three reasons, the top of your most popular reasons, the only one that showed up in all three was safe environment, which as a parent, I totally get that, right? Before anything else you want your kid to be safe. But interestingly it wasn’t the top in each one, each of the most popular was different across. So for homeschool parents, the top one was one on one attention, which obviously I think makes a great deal of sense. If you want one on one attention for your child, homeschooling is probably the way to go. For private school parents, it was academic quality. That one came in first, which I thought was really interesting. And then district school parents, it was location. Amongst homeschool parents, the next obviously is safe environment. Location showed up for homeschool parents as well, I mean, what could be more convenient than in your own home? Morals and values only showed up for private school parents, that came in third.

So yeah, I think folks should come and dig into the numbers on these. I think they’re really interesting in the report and we could spend a lot of time talking about them, but we have to throw in one question. We spent a lot of time last month talking about gun violence and obviously a super difficult and fraught conversation. We did include a question this month and I’m not sure if it was on last month or we sort of tweaked the version of it. One of the things that struck us last month, if you listened to last month’s podcast, was the large percentage of American parents who said that they would be comfortable with their child’s teacher carrying a gun. I think all of us knew that there were definitely people in America who felt that way, but seeing then depending on the way you sliced it, 50, 60% of parents being comfortable with that. It was definitely something that was like, “Whoa, we didn’t necessarily see that coming.” Those of you that listened also remembered teachers were not quite as positive about that. I think only 21% said that they would carry a gun if they could.

A question that we asked this month, which I think might help us understand this a little bit better is we asked how concerned are you about a violent intruder like a mass shooter entering your child or children’s school? This month in July 50% of American school parents, which is up eight points. So we did actually ask it last month. I apologize. But up eight points from last month, half of school parents say that they are extremely or very concerned. So this is even thrown out lesser sort of version, somewhat concerned, not in there, extremely concerned or very concerned. John, it seems to me that this has a 50% of American parents are concerned about this. This has serious implications for just the psychology of schools, trying to be a teacher, trying to be an administrator when you have this in the background. That half of parents are deeply concerned about this. What do you think? I don’t know even what direction. What do you think about those numbers?

John Kristof: Yeah, it’s very high and it’s an issue. It’s the kind of thing that you would never want to think about happening in your child’s school, but obviously a lot of parents are. Just to highlight, in case anybody missed it, I was one of the people on the team that very strongly advocated for continuing to ask this question in particular, even as we were moving away just from time from the Uvalde incident, because I wanted to see if… Well, I think how I phrased it was I wanted to see how much concern tapered off in the wake of the tragedy. Just making an assumption that particularly today’s information comes flying at you at a hundred miles an hour, 24 hours a day, stories move on so fast and our brain has new information to absorb all the time. I assume that this would be many other news stories and that concern would kind of taper off and be replaced by something else.

The numbers showed quite the opposite of an eight point jump in parents being very concerned about an intruder at their kid’s school, particularly notable for parents of kids in kindergarten through fourth grade. So the youngest group, the youngest kids, concern rose 13 percentage points. Again, this is from the June wave of the survey, which was already three weeks after the Uvalde shooting. So there’s definitely a concern that’s been marinating in our psyche here as a nation. Even with school not being in session, I think it’s a concern that a lot of parents are taking into this school year. I know that education administrators have a lot of difficult decisions to make, and there’s all sorts of different options that you can take that you hope will keep kids safe, that you hope will deter or negate any possible violent occurrences happening at your school in the future, but I think it’s important for K12 administrators, decision makers, policy makers, and legislators out there sitting on education committees, realizing that a lot of people are taking this concern incredibly seriously. These rare events have become more frequent and they’re really resting on people’s minds. It’s just hard to overstate how crazy it is that not only are the numbers this high, but they’re going up.

Mike McShane: That’s the thing, right? And I’m so glad. I may have been on the other side of that discussion of, should we keep this question or not? Because, I think exactly what you said. I assumed listen, horrific event happens, it gets to the forefront of people’s minds, but then the other things in life crowd that out. That does not appear to be the case at least after one month and we’ll continue asking this question. As you mentioned, not only does it stay, it goes up and definitely something that we’re going to be coping with.

Well, look, I want to pivot one last time to another set of new questions that we asked that hopefully, unfortunately, last month because of the world’s events, we had to ask these questions about gun violence, get a better understanding. I hope this month’s topic is a little bit lighter, a little bit more enjoyable.

We talked about extracurricular activities. There’s been a lot of conversation about learning loss that took place during the pandemic, but it wasn’t just learning loss, right? Kids lost a lot of opportunities to interact with one another, to develop friendships and learn all the wonderful things that come along with the non-academic aspects of school and all the things that go around with school athletics plays music, et cetera.

So we decided to ask a whole series of questions about extracurricular activities. And so maybe we’ll just start with the kind of baseline question. We asked of school parents, “Some families choose to supplement their child’s education either with additional instruction or signing up their child in activities outside of regular school hours. Which of the following describes your child or children’s participation in the following activities.” And so they can say they’re currently participating in something, they’re not currently participating but interested, or they’re not participating. Interestingly or perhaps not surprisingly, we’ll go with the top three extracurricular activities. Or I’ll say everyone listening, you can guess on your own. What do we think that 1, 2, 3 is. And, of course, it is athletics, arts focused and then academic focused. There were some other ones in there that I’ll be interested in talking about. But Colyn, I don’t know, did you play sports extracurricularly? I identify myself as more of a book reader than an athlete, but I don’t know. Have you played any and if so, or if not, what do you think about these numbers?

Colyn Ritter: I would be lying to you if I didn’t say there was times in fourth, fifth grade where it’s like, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And it’s like, “NBA player.” And then I realized I’m not going to be 6’5″ and jumping through the gym type of thing. So then I had to pivot to the book reading, which is also not that bad. But yeah, and 43% of school parents saying that their kid participates in athletics based extracurriculars was not surprising. When we first talked about posing this question to parents, I was curious to see what the options would be, what the parents would say. The things that came to mind were my own experiences in the summer and things that were happening in addition to school. So it was like sports, basketball, baseball, and then arts, band or choir, stuff like that. So those are the things that immediately popped into my mind.

But a couple interesting ones that I was curious about in terms of, because we asked about participation, we asked about interests, so people that aren’t currently participating, but would be interested if such a thing were to happen. And then also just general disinterest in participating. But we asked about mental health supports, community focused extracurricular programs and career preparation opportunities. So those were interesting, because I feel like people’s minds and listeners and readers of the report, there’s probably a wide array of ideas of what those things mean. And then I got a little bit of clarification. Community focused extracurriculars, like volunteer opportunities within the community, that garnered the second most interest. Nearly half of parents said that they were interested in their kid participating, but were not currently participating. And the one slightly above that were career preparation opportunities. So apprenticeships, internships.

Personally, I shifted the focus from thinking like K-7, K-8. Those seem more like high school, 9-12 based activities. But it’s still interesting to see that those are attracting a lot of support or interest from parents even though the participation numbers are a little low. There’s still obviously significant interest in arts focused extracurriculars and academic extracurriculars as well. So those were notable from the interest side of things.

And then the only other thing in terms of disinterest were nearly half of parents reported that their child was not interested in participating in religious based extracurricular activities, which not super surprising. I mean, if you look, throwing it back a little bit to why parents are enrolling their child in a school type, religion was 7%, by far the lowest. So religion being a driver of these things, whether it’s enrolling your child in school or in terms of extracurriculars, it’s not the driver that many would expect. That was probably the only thing that popped off the page in terms of disinterest.

But I’m glad we’re asking these questions because obviously like Mike said, we go from very morbid discussions about school safety, which how are we even talking about that? I mean, it should never be a discussion, but yet it is. So now we’re going to something much more joyous and positive in terms of what people are doing to supplement their education. That’s where kids make their friends and really great social interactions and they learn not just on the pages in the ABCs and the academics. But these are opportunities for kids to learn and expand their horizons and stuff. So I like that we’re asking these questions and we also dive into cost a bit. Mike, I don’t know if you wanted to transition into cost.

Mike McShane: Yeah, no, I think that’s a really important one because one of these things that struck me was, as Colyn brought up, so we’ll take the most popular one, for example. Athletics based extracurricular activities, 42% of students currently do it, but 36% said they were not participating but were interested. And so when you look at those numbers you’re like “Okay, well why is that?” Maybe a time thing, a schedule thing, whatever. It could also be the structure of athletics. While I wasn’t much of an athlete, mostly out of necessity at the school where I taught, I coached as well. I was a baseball coach and I’m a huge advocate for sports and kids playing sports. Big believer in it. I’m also obviously a big supporter of the arts. I was much more into music in school and got a lot of value out of that and played in bands and things and it was amazing. So I’m big into all of those things.

I was like, “Well, this is wild to see that many people who couldn’t.” And I was kind of going down that tangent because I think that a lot of high school sports and others, I think we need to do some reworking of them to get more students involved and more students involved in competitive things. I think sometimes schools, you might have your Varsity team and JV and then there’s intermural. It’s like, “Well, can we have maybe more opportunities for people to play meaningful sports with one another?” That’s like a whole other conversation. But, one of the questions we asked that Colyn just brought up was how much does all of this stuff cost you? And I got to tell you, kids aren’t old enough to do this yet and I’m thinking back to when I was going through this up in the ’90s and early two 2000s, it seemed to be a lot lower.

So some of this stuff, we asked parents, in the past month, how much have you paid for each of these activities? So that most popular, the athletics focused one, the average answer was $473. $473 a month. If that’s what they’re doing for an entire year, that’s almost six grand. Even if you’re only doing it for half the year or something, if that’s the burn rate you’re going at, that’s almost $3,000 to play whatever sports kids are playing. And to be honest with you, that was one of the cheaper ones. Arts was the only one that was cheaper than that, which was $445 a month. But if you go up to the academic ones were close to $500, $494 a piece. Culture focused, $555 a month. Career focused, $637 a month. John, I mean, it seems like some of this stuff is prohibitively expensive.

We also, if you want to talk to as well, we broke out some of these things by the demographics of lower income, middle income, higher income. Not surprisingly, we see higher income households spending more on this. But it seems to me, I mean, this is just cost prohibitive, right? I mean, it’s just like … it’s just crazy the amounts of money that are being spent on this.

John Kristof: Yeah, this stuff’s expensive apparently. And if you look at the reasons that parents say that … We ask parents who indicated that they were interested in a kind of extracurricular activity, but their kid wasn’t participating in it right now, we asked why. And basically for each of the categories, 20% to 30% of parents said that cost was a contributing reason to why they weren’t able to participate. I’m trying to think of how the numbers get this high. Because to clarify, if anybody’s wondering about those, the way we set this up is we asked parents to consider if a parent has multiple children in K-12 education, what we basically do for the survey is we ask them to think about their oldest child. That’s their sample that they’re going to be talking about in answering all these questions. So we’re asking about one kid.

And I know that we’re in summer camp season and we phrase this question about in the last month, how much did you pay? I am curious, maybe if we phrase it the same way and we carry this question into the academic year, maybe the numbers would be a little bit different if costs go down a little bit, because they’re internalized by the school a little bit more. I’m not sure. Those were just questions that I had going through my head. Something that I didn’t think about going into the survey, but being shocked by the numbers I was trying to figure out why are these numbers so high?

Now that being said, obviously I think a lot of parents, even if their kids aren’t in a particular type of extracurricular activity, will see benefits to them. I was fortunate enough to dabble in all sorts of different extracurriculars in my K-12 education experience. And I can point to specific ways that my experiences in each of those categories shaped me to be a fuller, better person. And I think a lot of parents want that for their kid.

But if you are a typical person and your kid is interested in something arts related and sports related, you start adding up these costs and it gets a little bit crazy, a little bit prohibitive. And I’m not an expert in these areas and a lot of ways I try to be a thoughtful observer and there is a trend and this speaks a little bit to something you said, Mike. About the way that we think about high school sports is just very competitive in a very specific way. We care about the best of the best and we don’t provide a lot of opportunity for kids who aren’t interested in being the best of the best and just want to participate.

One of the reasons tee-ball is so great when kids are young and the reason everyone can participate is because the ball sits there on the tee-ball and you can tell a child to wave this stick at a ball and run. And that’s like two of a kid’s favorite things, surely, right? It makes sense. Anybody can participate in that. But you get to high school, we start caring about winning and that becomes prohibitive and there’s a lot of money thrown at getting good enough to participate. I’m on a bunch of different sports-related subreddits, and it just shocks me about how many kids I see who are 12 or 13 years old talking about what kind of training do I need to do to make sure that I make my high school team in soccer, or baseball, or football, or whatever it is? I think there’s a shift, and I’m bringing up sports analogies specifically, and I don’t know how much this carries over to other categories. But I think the age where we’re starting to think about, is my kid good enough is getting earlier and earlier, which means that there’s just a lot of pressure that parents feel to make sure that they’re giving kids opportunities to do what they want to the best of their ability, and younger kids start getting involved in different kinds of camps and things like that with just a different focus, very professional. Professional stuff gets very expensive. That’s what I’m getting at.

Mike McShane: The kind of professionalization of all of it.

John Kristof: Professionalization, yeah. Sorry, that’s what I mean. Now all that said, it’s more than just sports. There’s career stuff that parents are interested in as well for their kids. Community-based stuff is great. All of this costs money and to throw a plug at one of EdChoice’s, one of our main things, we love ESAs. Part of the idea of an ESA is that education is more than just tuition. It’s more than just showing up to school, and just sitting in a classroom, education formation is a lot of different things. I think about the different arts things that I was in, the club events that I participated in. The sports that I participated in were also very formative to my personhood, the person who I am today, as the academic stuff.

Part of the idea of an ESA and the idea of giving parents the opportunity to direct money to different areas in ways that benefit their child is they can make these kinds of evaluations where, hey, I want to take these kind of classes for my kid, and there’s this academic club, academic extracurricular. They really excel in math, or they’re interested in robotics, or something like that. Something like an ESA, the philosophy is cool, take this money and run with it. Pursue what your kid wants and what they’re interested in, what will help them grow academically because there are so many options out there that are cost-prohibitive for people. I’m convinced it doesn’t have to be that way, if we are willing to reimagine how we structure education finance in this country.

Mike McShane: Well, no, I’m glad you brought that up because the last thing I want to talk about too is Morning Consult made these really interesting heat maps for us that, again, I haven’t done the plug yet, but edchoice.morningconsultintelligence.com. You can see the whole full slide deck that’s here. But they asked parents about, how do you typically pay for these activities? Then also asked this interesting question that was for parents whose children are not participating in activities. What are the barriers to it? So they’re interesting color-coded things based on the different reasons that parents have and how prevalent they are for the different types of extracurricular activities. So Colyn, there’s a lot of color on these two charts. But I’m wondering, were there any sort of squares of those that stood out for you of being particularly interesting either in the finance sources that parents have, or their reasons for not being able to participate in any of these extracurricular activities?

Colyn Ritter: Yeah, it’s definitely an aesthetically pleasing chart. It’s significant that most people are paying out of pocket. More than half the categories, the majority of parents are paying out of pocket. It speaks to John’s idea about the more professionalism, that being prioritized younger and younger in athletics because 72% of parents say that they’re paying for athletics out of pocket drastically more than any of the other categories. So that definitely means that there’s a lot of money being exchanged in that area. One thing I did see in terms of the barriers, so obviously one of the barriers is going to be cost. We’ve spoken a lot about the cost of these things. The biggest barrier, which was surprising to me is that the parents don’t have enough information for what can work best for their child. So that either speaks to a lack of good marketing from these extracurriculars or that the parent just doesn’t know what the child wants to do. So I skip past that one because there’s not a lot you can really do with that.

But the one that stuck out to me is the costs are too high, which is totally valid. That’s an absolute barrier in a lot of the things in today’s world, but only 18% of parents said religious focused activities, the costs are too high so they can’t participate, which is interesting because parents also have the least interest or their children have the least interest in participating in these things. I wonder if the disinterest in religious activities will decrease because cost isn’t really a barrier when it comes to these as compared to athletics. I mean, we’re looking at the graph that shows the average cost per month, career focused internships, apprenticeships are costing nearly $650 a month, which is …

Mike McShane: An incredibly large amount of money.

Colyn Ritter: Yeah. I mean, I would love to hear a justification for that. It doesn’t really make any sense to me. Mental health focused, another thing I saw there, that one has the highest percent of parents saying that they participate because the program or activity is free to them, which I think is a great thing. I think mental health services, especially with the learning loss that we led off with today in the intro that Mike had. There’s a lot of things that are lacking in schools these days, and I think accessible mental health services is one of those.

So the fact that parents are saying that they’re participating because it’s free to them, that’s good. I don’t think cost should be a barrier there, but more than a fourth of parents say that cost is too high for mental health focus. That is one of the barriers. So I mean, there’s a lot going on here. There’s a lot of good information. There’s a million different ways you can look at this, but being very broad, I like talking about this way more than school safety. But that’s really all I have from this side, at least, if you guys have anything else.

Mike McShane: No, absolutely. Look, I think that’s a great place to leave it. John, Colyn, a pleasure as always. Again, folks, I probably didn’t plug it enough up top. Remember, if you’re just hearing this podcast and you haven’t been to the website, edchoice.morningconsultintelligence.com. We have this wonderful PowerPoint slide where we’ve been trying to use words to paint a picture in your mind of all of these charts that we have in front of us. You can just get it straight from the horse’s mouth. Go there and look at the charts yourself. Find interesting things. Share them on social media. Tell your friends about it. Shout them into the sky, whatever you feel like doing.

Colyn Ritter: Send us your Billikens.

Mike McShane: Yes, exactly. Send us your Billikens. Now what’ll be funny is you could potentially send it to John, who I don’t know if he actually knows what a Billiken is. But if he does, kudos to him and if not, I imagine he’ll Google this afterwards. John, you already have enough EdChoice swag, so we probably can’t send anything to you, but …

John Kristof: I Googled Billikens during the introduction.

Mike McShane: Okay, so now you know. So now you will be a good arbiter of this. So you can tweet at John at Colyn or myself what a Billiken is. We’ll send you stuff and as always, like and subscribe to this podcast, or rate the podcast wherever you get it. Tell other people about it. I want to give a shout out as I always do to our wonderful podcast producer, Jacob. We gave him a fair amount of work to do in this podcast. So if you listen to this as one coherent whole from three men who make sense as they’re talking, we owe that to Jacob. So thank you for that. Appreciate it as always, and we appreciate all of you for listening, and look forward to speaking to you again on another edition of EdChoice Chats.