Parents Agree: We Need More Investment In Public Schools Not More “Choice”
Today, the American Federation of Teachers released the results of a new nationwide poll of parents that shows growing support for expanding public schools. The poll also shows that parents want to see more investment in local public schools over more “choice” in schools.
The survey, conducted by Hart Research Associates for the AFT, consisted of interviews with 1,200 public school parents in major U.S. cities including Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego and San Francisco.
“We wanted to know what parents are thinking,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten in a recent phone interview unveiling the poll. “These results match what I hear from parents and communities across the country.”
Weingarten continued, “There is zero ambiguity when it comes to what parents want for their children’s education: safe and welcoming, well-funded neighborhood public schools that help children develop their knowledge and skills and ensure equal opportunity for all kids. Parents deeply support the public schools their children attend and are happy with the job public schools are doing. And while we will never be satisfied until every public school is a place parents want to send their children, educators want to work, and kids are engaged and happy, these results confirm the sentiment we’ve seen in other recent polls that show support for public education continuing to rise.”
Parents believe in public schools. 73% of the parents polled stated that the public school their child attends provides them with a “good-to-excellent education.” Only 7% of the parents rated their schools as “not-so-good to poor.”
A good education system is the foundation for a strong economy and a healthy society. Parents understand that a strong educational foundation is the best way help their children succeed. The majority of parents polled agreed that, “public schools do more to expand opportunities for low income and minority students.” That is also why 79% of parents believe that their public school is helping their child to “reach their full potential.”
Over the past few decades, public schools have come under attack. Opponents use national standardized tests as the baseline for how well a school is functioning. Schools that did not preform well in these tests, see their budgets decreased and programs cut, which leads to lower test scores and poor performance in successive years.
The use of standardized testing has become the major driving factor in educational reform conversations. However parents disagree with this notion. 61% of parents believe that “too much emphasis” is being placed on the results of standardized testing.
What is really concerning to parents is cuts to school budgets, increases in class sizes, and cuts to teachers and staff.
Contrary to what many right-wing politicians tell you, parents do not want more “choice” or “vouchers” to send children to private schools. Only 20% of the parents surveyed said we should open more charter schools and provide more vouchers to private schools. The overwhelming majority, 60% of parents strongly agreed “we should focus on ensuring that every child has access to a good public school in their community.”
“This poll confirms what we are hearing from parents and educators here in Florida,” said Christine Bramuchi, Co-Founder and Director of Operations of the Alliance for Public Schools. “Even with a robust charter and voucher program here in Florida, parents overwhelming support their local public schools.”
According to the poll, parents are unified in what they believe is best for their children.
- 93-94% of parents say they want to reduce class sizes especially in early grades, extra resources for struggling neighborhood schools, and to expand career vocational or technical training.
- 90-91% of parents say they want curriculums that include music and arts, health and nutrition services through local schools, and to hold charter schools accountable for their performance like public schools.
- 84-89% or parents say they want more afterschool programs, expanded mentoring programs, high quality preschool for 3 and 4 year olds, additional pay for teachers who work in hard to staff schools. They agree that public schools should be a “community hub” where students and their families can partake in extra enrichment programs.
- 68% oppose taking money from public schools to increase spending on charter schools and voucher programs.
Weingarten explained that the results of this poll are definitive and that the parents are saying loud and clear, “Stop defunding our schools.”
It is also very clear whom parents trust when it comes to the education of their children, teachers. By a 79-21% margin, parents agree that teachers have the right ideas when it comes to public schools. Less than half of the parents trust their governor, their local mayor or town official, or their state legislatures when it comes to their children’s education.
Rounding out the bottom of the list, with a dismal 33% support, is President Donald Trump and his Secretary of Education, Besty DeVos.
DeVos is wildly unpopular with parents. Nearly 75% of the parents polled knew about DeVos and her position as Secretary of Education. Of those familiar with DeVos, 44% disapproved of her job performance as Secretary of Education while only 23% actually approved of her performance.
“It’s striking that the agenda being pushed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to defund public education and divert resources to vouchers and other privatization schemes—even when they are cloaked as ‘choice’—is completely at odds with parents’ educational priorities. This is true across every race, political persuasion and area of the country. These results should serve as a clarion call to policymakers to stop defunding our schools and instead deliver on the priorities parents want, to reclaim the promise of public education for all children,” Weingarten added.
The results are the latest in a series of polls released this summer and fall on people’s priorities for public education. Gallup released a survey last week showing support for public schools was up by 7 points compared with 2012. PDK’s annual poll showed deep support for public schools and investments in wraparound services, such as mental health services and after-school programs, and resources to prepare students for successful lives and careers; it also showed strong opposition to funding vouchers for religious schools. And an Education Next poll showed public support for charter schools fell by 12 percentage points over the past year.
All of the data and polling results can be found at AFT.org