COVID pandemic forced parents to examine their kids' education: Study – USA TODAY

Schooling during the coronavirus pandemic forced parents to take a hard look at how their children were being educated, and many parents report being more concerned about their children’s schooling because of it. 
A newly released survey by The Harris Poll, commissioned by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, took the pulse of parents in the U.S. at the end of the last school year.
About 40% of U.S. households have school-age children at home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s a look at their top concerns, according to the new poll: 
The vast majority of parents said education is a top priority for them as voters. Eighty-two percent said they would be willing to vote outside their self-identified political party based on educational platforms. That was true for 88% independents, 81% of Democrats, and 79% of Republicans, the study found.
Parents’ interest in education as a political issue has grown; 83% of participants said education is more important to them politically now than it was in the past. For parents voting in local and state elections, the issue was second only to taxes, according to the study.
 Pew Research Center found in a recent poll that 58% of likely midterm voters described education as a very important voter issue; more voters said issues such as the economy, gun policy, and health care were very important.
Parents in the Harris study, titled “Never Going Back: An Analysis of Parent Sentiment on Education,” said safety was overwhelmingly the No. 1 issue for their child’s education, especially since the pandemic; 77% said it was absolutely essential and nearly 60% said it became more important during the pandemic.
They also valued the quality of instruction (58% said it was absolutely essential) and the ability to provide individualized support (41%).
Educators have been sounding the alarm about shrinking public school enrollment, especially since the pandemic began.
Houston’s enrollment dropped by more than 22,000 – to about 183,000 – in fall 2021, and only about half of those students have returned to school. California’s enrollment dropped by more than 110,000 students in 2021-22 since the previous school year. Minneapolis Public Schools has lost more than 4,000 students since the pandemic began.
According to the Harris study, homeschooling has been the top choice for families switching the type of school their children attend since the pandemic. Charter schools, which used to top the list of choice for those who switched school types, are now second.
Parents who participated in the study said they favor having more schooling options – including charter schools – for their children, and 93% agreed that education isn’t one-size-fits-all.
More than one-quarter of respondents said they had switched their children’s school type at some point. Eighty-nine percent of those who had switched said it was a positive move, mostly because their children were happier, as a result, the survey found.
“It was clear from the research that those with a lot of different options were in a better position than those without,” said Aimee Vella Ripley of The Harris Poll.
Contributing: The Associated Press

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