Survey: 61 Percent of Americans Say Public Education on Wrong Track

EdChoice’s annual Schooling in America survey found 61 percent of Americans believe government-run education is headed in the wrong direction, while 76 percent of the public back parental choice programs such as education savings accounts (ESAs).

In 2022, the poll’s tenth anniversary, the survey found 61 percent of Americans and 52 percent of school parents say public schools are on the wrong track, while 34 percent of Americans and 48 percent of school parents state government-led education is headed in the right direction.

Mike McShane, director of national research at EdChoice, which promotes educational choice as the intellectual legacy of Milton and Rose Friedman, wrote at Forbes that not much has changed in a decade in Americans’ opinions on government-run schools.

In 2013, for example, the survey found 62 percent of Americans thought public education was on the wrong track, with 26 percent saying it was headed on the right path.

McShane noted the results of a survey question to school parents that asked for the top three reasons why they chose their child’s learning setting:

Traditional public school parents prioritized proximity to home or work, academic quality, and the fact that they were assigned to the school. Charter parents prioritized academic quality, safety, and structure and discipline (tied with class size). Private school parents’ top three were academic quality, safety, and moral instruction. Homeschooling parents led with safety and one-on-one attention, and then academic quality.

This year’s survey also asked parents to report their satisfaction with their current educational setting. The response showed 43 percent of private school parents reported being “very satisfied” with their school, while only 30 percent of public school parents reported the same.

A sharp rise in support for parental choice programs, such as education savings accounts (ESAs) is evident in the survey results.

In 2022, 76 percent of Americans and 81 percent of school parents back ESAs, while in 2013, 64 percent of the public and 62 percent of school parents expressed support for ESAs.

The survey also found Americans across various demographics favor homeschooling.

A question put to school parents in various education settings found 69 percent of current school parents say they favor homeschooling as an option, including 66 percent of public school parents and 71 percent of charter school parents.

The data showed consistency across families in urban, suburban, and rural areas, and across various ethnic groups, that homeschooling is viewed in a positive light.

“Most parents are happy with their child’s school, but a significant minority of dissatisfied parents exists,” McShane observed:

Putting together those parents who responded that they were either “very” or “somewhat” happy with their child’s school, we see that 69% of public school parents, 72% of charter school parents, 78% of private school parents, and 73% of homeschool parents are satisfied with their child’s schooling. Even if we set aside that being “somewhat satisfied” is not exactly a ringing endorsement, 31% of public school parents being either “very” or “somewhat” dissatisfied translates to a lot of people. We’re talking probably north of 10 million parents there that are not happy with their child’s school.

In the survey, respondents were asked to estimate how much money their local public schools spend.

Among Americans, 71 percent underestimated the amount spent by their public schools, while 81 percent of school parents did the same.

McShane wrote some of the survey results “surprise” him.

“The fact that opinions on the general direction of education appear impervious to all outside events is not something I expected,” he explained. “Americans continuously failing to grasp how much money is spent on schools even though they have a strong incentive to know how and where their tax dollars are being spent surprised me as well.”

The 2022 Schooling in America survey had a general population sample of 1,200 and a current school parents sample of 1,200.

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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].




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