The past two years have been difficult for parents of school children. COVID-19-related school closures, mask and vaccination mandates, and teachers and administrators increasingly inserting wokeness into curriculum have motivated parents to speak out about the state of K-12 education.
And parents are less satisfied with the K-12 education than they have been in 20 years, according to a new poll from Gallup. In its annual survey of the state of education today, the pollster surveyed adults in general and parents in particular, and Americans have grown dissatisfied with K-12 education at a shocking rate.
“Americans have become less content in recent years with the quality of the nation’s K-12 education,” Gallup’s Lydia Saad reports. “The 42% who say they are satisfied today is the lowest measured in the past two decades by one percentage point and the second-lowest reading in Gallup’s 23-year trend. Americans’ satisfaction with schools was at a near-record high of 51% in 2019 before dropping slightly each year since.”
Gallup asked survey respondents to rank their views on education on a four-point scale, from completely dissatisfied to completely satisfied. A majority of adults express dissatisfaction with education, with 32% somewhat dissatisfied and 23% completely dissatisfied. Only 9% were completely satisfied.
It’s probably not surprising that, when Gallup broke down the results by party, Republicans are less satisfied with the state of K-12 education in America today than Democrats are. Only 30% of those surveyed who identify as Republican or lean Republican declared themselves satisfied with education, while just over half of those who are Democrats or lean Democrat say they’re satisfied.
But when parents faced questions about their own children’s education, the tune changed dramatically. An astonishing 80% of parents are satisfied with the education their kids are receiving, including 32% who are completely satisfied.
“There is no ambiguity about the source of the recent decline in public satisfaction with education, nationally,” Saad writes. “It entirely reflects reduced satisfaction among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents since President Donald Trump left office, while Democrats’ satisfaction has remained fairly stable.”
Related: Parents With School-Age Kids Could Be the New ‘Swing Voters’
The reasons for dissatisfaction with education at the dawn of the 2022-23 school year are surprising. The issues I mentioned above — COVID measures and the woke invasion of schools — don’t factor as high on the list as many people might believe.
The set of concerns that rated the highest involved curriculum and educational approach — factors like outdated curriculum and schools’ failure to teach the basics. Nearly two-thirds of parents expressed these concerns. Twenty-eight percent of adults worried about the lack of resources available to schools, while 17% worried about political agendas in education. The school climate, including bullying, discipline, and a lack of empathy for students, was the concern of 12%, while 15% of those surveyed were concerned about factors that fall into the “other” category, including COVID protocols.
Naturally, the weight of these concerns breaks down somewhat differently by political leanings as well. Democrat-leaning adults place more concern on the lack of resources to schools, while those who lean Republican are more concerned about political messages in schools.
In her conclusion, Saad points out that “The nation’s primary and secondary schools have experienced unprecedented disruption over the past three years as they adapted to teaching during the pandemic and were swept into partisan political fights over certain social issues.”
Conservatives and Republican-leaning adults are driving the downward trend in satisfaction with education, even as parents appear to be relatively pleased with the education their own kids are receiving. The question that remains in light of this news is whether these dissatisfied parents can continue to be a political force.