In a new report, Never Going Back: An Analysis of Parent Sentiment on Education, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools examines results from a survey of more than 5,000 parents conducted by The Harris Poll in May 2022.
The report indicates that parents overwhelmingly like and want the freedom to choose the best education option for their children. This is true across all races, political ideologies, and geographies, but more pronounced in some. Especially after parents experienced a first-person look at schooling during the pandemic, they began to understand that choice in their child’s education is essential.
The top four reasons why parents want to keep the newfound freedom in education are:
1. Parents value choice—93% agree one size doesn’t fit all in education.
- More than one in four parents are school-type switchers and 86% of all parents we surveyed want options for their children other than the district school they are zoned for or assigned to attend.
- Charter schools are a popular choice among parents who switched the type of school their children attend.
- Before the pandemic, charter schools were the most popular among school-type switchers. Since the pandemic, charter schools have dropped to the second most popular choice, preceded by homeschooling.
Choice in Action
Parents’ strong desire for choice and belief that “one size does not fit all” can even apply within a single family. The Guerra Family of Albuquerque, New Mexico enrolled their children in three different school models: a private school, a brick-and-mortar public charter, and a full-time virtual public charter school. Understanding their children’s changing academic needs and identifying their scholastic strengths and interests guides the family when selecting school options for their children.
Mom Ashley Guerra said, “As a family, we believe in regular assessments of these attributes to ensure that the academic institution chosen is meeting the needs of our family and our children. This is why our children are in schools with different educational models!”
2. Safety is a #1 priority.
- Seventy-seven percent of parents said safety was absolutely essential when it comes to their child’s education. The second most cited factor is the quality of instruction—58% of parents named it as absolutely essential.
- Parents who chose to send their children to public charter schools in particular report that they did so because charter schools exhibited better safety (47%).
3. Parents who switched schools are happy with the choices they’ve made.
- Eighty-nine percent of parents whose children have switched school types report that they or their child experienced a positive change as a result of the switch—namely that their child is happier (57%).
- More than four in five parents (83%) agree that education has become a more important political issue to them than it was in the past.
- Eighty-two percent of parents would be willing to vote outside their political party based on the candidate’s education platform.
- For parents who vote in both federal and state/local elections, education is the second most important issue—second only to taxes.
Switching in Action
Gwen Samuel, a life-long Democrat, education advocate, and mom from Connecticut, is one parent who recently switched her party affiliation to Republican due to views on education, saying: “Our babies need schooling options now. Period. Education options help them move from surviving the pandemic to thriving despite the pandemic. I need to cast my vote for people who share my vision for expanding education opportunities for our future workforce.”
4. Support for charter schools is high.
- Seventy-four percent of parents would consider sending their child to a public charter school if one were available in their area.
- Even among those who might not choose a charter school for their child, 84% agree that charter schools should be available to families who would choose them.
- Seventy-seven percent of parents want more public charter school offerings in their area. This is consistent across political affiliations.
- Eighty-one percent of parents support expanding the number of slots in existing public charter schools in their area.
Support in Action
Parents at Digital Pioneers Academy (DPA), a public charter school in Washington, D.C., rallied the DC Public Charter School Board to approve adding high school grades when students were on the verge of graduating middle school and needed a high-quality education in high school. Founding parent Simone Scott said, “I am begging you to truly understand that our kids’ hopes in themselves and their possibilities [will] continue with DPA as a high school. For you, this may be a decision of yes or no for a building. But for us and my family, it is a lifeline.”
Overall, The Harris Poll survey results provide deep insights into how parents feel about education, how their views have changed over the past two years, and the likelihood of their voting decisions being influenced by views on education. And they are never going back.
Jennifer Diaz is the vice president of communications at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.