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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Education's middle ground is 'vanishing'

When schools closed in 2020, support for schools remained strong, but the public's faith in the quality of their local schools has declined, concludes the 2022 Education Next survey. Partisan splits are widening and the middle ground is "vanishing."

Fifty-two percent of Americans give their local public schools an A or B grade, and 22 percent think schools nationwide deserve an A or B. That's down from a peak of 60 percent and 30 percent in 2019.

Support for charter schools, vouchers and tax-credit scholarships, which dropped during the pandemic, has rebounded. Support for homeschooling is high, and 47 percent "now support education savings accounts—government-provided funds that can be used on educational expenses for families that choose not to send their child to a public school—compared to 37 percent in 2017."

There is no political consensus on face mask mandates and teaching students about contemporary (not historical) racism, the authors report. On both subjects, the partisan divide is large.

About 65% of Democrats support face mask mandates in schools, with 15% opposed. Among Republicans, the breakdown is essentially the reverse: 19% in support and 63% opposed. With respect to teaching about racism in the classroom, there is no meaningful distinction between the proportions of Democrats (37%) and Republicans (39%) who are content with their local schools’ current approach. The partisan difference appears when we consider those who are displeased with the status quo. Fully 54% of Democrats think their local schools are placing too little emphasis on racial matters, compared to 10% of Republicans. Meanwhile, 51% of Republicans think there is currently too much emphasis on racial matters, compared to 9% of Democrats.

Other issues also have "hardened the political battle lines," including the role of teachers' unions and "efforts to expand the range of fully publicly funded education downward to pre-K and upward to college."

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