By Ferrell Foster
Texans’ support for public schools grew in 2020, even as educators scrambled to deal with the unprecedented challenges of a global pandemic, according to the second annual statewide poll on attitudes toward public education commissioned by the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation.
The findings were released Jan. 21 in a report titled, “Perceptions in a Pandemic: Texans’ Support for Public Schools Grows.”
The poll found 56 percent of Texans gave their community’s public schools an A or B grade, an 8-point jump from just one year ago. An overwhelming 92 percent of Texans report the same or even more appreciation for their schools because of their response to the pandemic.
“We’ve seen how hard schools have had to work to educate students over the last year and the lengths they have gone in support of their communities. What is clear from this poll is that Texans have also seen this and appreciate the efforts of educators and staff to support Texas families,” Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation President Shari Albright said.
Though Texas parents acknowledged the coronavirus as the top challenge facing schools, with 25 percent saying it was a problem in open-ended responses, in another question, 78 percent rated their school’s learning model as “very” or “somewhat” effective. The findings revealed parent perceptions were influenced by their student’s learning model. Eighty-seven percent of parents whose children were in an in-person or using a hybrid model rated the model as “very” or “somewhat” effective” compared to 70 percent of parents whose children were in a fully remote setting. Only 19 percent said remote learning is “very” effective.
When asked specifically about pandemic-related problems facing their children, 72 percent of public school parents identified missing social interactions at school or with friends as the top concern. About 7 in 10 Texans, including majorities across demographic and partisan political affiliation, believe schools need help addressing learning loss resulting from remote learning challenges. Eighty-three percent of Texans support state-provided broadband internet access for Texas public school students whose families cannot afford it on their own.
On equity issues, Texans believe students face learning barriers based on income, race, and ethnicity. Attitudes are informed by Texans’ own racial and ethnic identities and experiences, as evidenced by Hispanic and Black Texans identifying certain barriers 7 to 30 percent more than White Texans. These barriers include students not consistently being placed with experienced or well-trained teachers and ineffective or biased disciplinary practices.
“All, not just some Texas public school students, deserve a high-quality and equitable education. These results confirm we still have work to do,” said Albright. “I am confident that the collective efforts of all of us working in education — in classrooms, at the Capitol, in our communities, and in higher education — can remove these equity barriers and improve the educational experience for all students.”
Texans are also concerned about possible funding cuts to public schools and what that would do to the quality of education. More than eight in ten poll respondents say they are very or somewhat concerned that funding cuts would negatively impact the quality of education in Texas public schools. Most Texans say public schools need more funding to address COVID-related challenges and would support potential revenue sources, including a tobacco tax increase and a new tax on vaping devices; legalizing and taxing casino gambling; and legalizing and taxing marijuana.
The second annual Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation survey was produced for Raise Your Hand Texas by Langer Research Associates. It was conducted October 9-11 in English and Spanish among a random sample of 1,034 Texas adults via the Ipsos KnowledgePanel®, a probability-based online survey panel. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.9 percentage points for the full sample; error margins are larger for subgroups.
Ferrell Foster is senior specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.