Most Californians Worry Schools Won’t Reopen Fully Next Fall

More than 4 in 5 California adults, including public school parents, believe that the pandemic has caused children, especially low-income children and English learners, to fall academically behind.

Six in 10 Californians are concerned that schools in the fall will not be open for full-time, in-person instruction in the fall, according to a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California released on Wednesday.

The annual survey of Californians’ perspectives on education also found that a majority approved of the way Gov. Gavin Newsom has handled K-12 public schools, although opinions were split along partisan lines, with 22% of Republicans and 79% of Democrats supporting him on the issue.

And perhaps in an indication of erosion of support for public schools, 42% of parents say they would send their youngest child to a private school if cost and location were not at issue. This compares with 31% who would choose a traditional public school, 14% a charter school, and 13% a religious school. The preference for a private school increased from 35% last year and 31% two years ago.

The survey of 1,602 adults over 18 was taken from April 1-14 and was offered in English or a choice of Spanish and three other languages. The margin of error was 3.4%, plus or minus, overall and 7.4%, plus or minus, for the 295 respondents who are public school parents.

Facing a recall election, Newsom can take solace in the poll’s finding that a majority of Californians (57% of adults, 64% of public-school parents) approve of how he has handled K-12 education.

“Majorities of Californians approve of the way that Governor Newsom is handling the state’s K-12 public schools and school reopening, while they remain deeply divided along party lines,” said PPIC President and CEO Mark Baldassare.

However, a year ago, when the last survey was taken weeks after schools closed quickly in response to the first throes of the pandemic, his approval marks were higher, with 73% of adults and 78% of public school parents expressing approval.

The poll, which focused on education, also found:

Of those who said children were falling behind academically during the pandemic, 60% said that was happening by a lot and 22% by a little. The views were similar among ethnic and racial groups. Eight in 10 adults said they were concerned that low-income children were falling farther behind other children. More Blacks and Latinos were very concerned about this than whites;

Amid continuing debates and lawsuits claiming that schools aren’t opening quickly enough, slightly more adults overall than public school parents said that schools should at least be partially open now (53% vs. 48%), while 28% of all adults and 27% of public school parents said that schools should be fully open now;

Looking ahead to the fall, 61% of all adults said they were concerned that K-12 schools would not be open for full-time in-person instruction (24% very concerned, 37% somewhat concerned), and two-thirds of public school parents said they were concerned (25% very concerned, 41% somewhat concerned).

When it comes to their own schools, two-thirds of adults said they approved of how their school district handled closures during the pandemic. Support was highest in the Los Angeles area (74%) and the Inland Empire (68%) and lowest in Orange County and San Diego (54%). Approval among public school parents was 72%.

The clear majority of all adults said that teachers’ salaries in their communities are too low. About 1 in 3 said salaries are just about right while 7% said they are too high, and 3% said they didn’t know. Among racial and ethnic groups, 76% of Blacks said pay is too low, compared with 59% of whites, 61% of Asian Americans and 62% of Latinos.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Education ruled that California school districts could substitute local assessments for the state standardized test, the Smarter Balanced assessment, under some conditions. Many districts are expected to exercise that option.

Asked whether they favor conducting year-end state testing this spring to measure the pandemic’s impact on student learning, 75% of all adults (and a similar proportion of public school parents) said they were in favor of continuing testing, with 23% opposed. Latinos were the most in favor (83%) and Blacks the least supportive (68%) with 70% of Asian Americans and whites in favor of continuing year-end testing.

As for the perennial issue of school funding, 49% of all adults, 53% of likely voters and 51% of public school parents said that the current level of state funding for their local public schools is not adequate—about the same level as a year ago.

When it comes to school construction and renovation, 59% of all adults, 55% of likely voters and 74% of public school parents said they would vote yes on a state bond measure to pay for school construction projects. Legislative leaders plan to place a bond on the state ballot in 2022.

3 Comments

  1. And they are not wrong to be worried. If you have a child in a public school, like me, you were informed during the pandemic that your voice does not matter as a parent, and the science does not matter to teacher unions. This is especially true in your more poor communities – where the voices are not as loud, and they are manipulated to believe they are somehow in danger if their kids go to school, when the science and real life data has proven the opposite. Public school campuses in downtown San Jose not only stopped students from going to school for 12+months, they chained off their giant, unused campuses from the broader community — leaving 20 empty basketball courts, and giant grass fields where older adults would exercise – and people with small children.

    Literally, teachers in empty classrooms didn’t want students OR their families anywhere near campus. All of this was happening (no school, teachers not listening to science, etc.) while the CDC, Santa Clara County AND UCSF especially were saying “schools are very safe, and the impacts on kids has been traumatic. Open schools!” Still, most CA public schools continue to fail their students – while private schools in CA and public schools across the country have been showing CA how to get it done since late 2020.

    Lastly, not only should parents be worried about schools remaining remote learning or part-time (significantly impacting the mental and physical health of kid) – they also need to worry about states like CA using a racist curriculum (Critical Race Theory) to somehow be anti-racist. Critical Race Theory is 100% racist – and injecting culture wars into public school classrooms. I literally can’t wait to move out of this state in a few years.

    The fact that I have several peers who sent their kids out of state with family to attend school is just absurd and sad – and a real testament to how poorly run this state is. Newsom/Democrats (proud Independent free from the two-party mess!) and the relationships they have with labor unions is a major part of the issue. We need change.

  2. Gavin kept his kids in in person private schools during the entire lockdown period. He lives in a $4 million dollar mansion that was gifted to him through some sort of LLC opened by his own brother. The palace that was gifted to Gavin has a swimming pool, tennis courts and so on. And, he’s able to do all that from a $200K per year governor’s salary. It all sounds kind of fishy, right?

    Gavin wants our kids to wear masks and sit six feet apart, separated from their friends by their little plexiglass cages. Depression is rampant among school age kids. And from all the data we’ve seen over a year, kids are statistically unaffected by the virus yet we treat them as if they are. Why?

  3. It is like this because too many California school boards and administrations are infested with corrupt, talentless political shills, falling over themselves to suck up to the demands of the teacher’s union, on the backs of the public and the taxpayer.

 If parents want change, they should begin by thoroughly investigating every single teachers union-endorsed candidate on their school board.