Schools and School Choice During a Year of Disruption: Views of Parents in Five States

In this study, more than 3,000 parents across Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, and Oregon share how they experienced school system responses at the height of the pandemic and national unrest in spring 2021 and how the pandemic changed parents’ attitudes and preferences related to school choice.

20211005 Haderlein et al Schools and school choice during a year of disruption Views of parents in five states Cover
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The public education landscape has changed dramatically since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Communities and school systems throughout the country have faced unimaginable consequences from this public health crisis and the disruption to K-12 public schools. The pandemic’s disproportionate impact on low-income communities of color, along with growing national awareness around racial injustice, have heightened concerns about inequity and spurred well-publicized and politicized debates around how schools should respond to these challenges.

Yet parents’ perspectives are often missing from debates on these issues. This report examines how parents experienced school and school system responses to the pandemic and heightened attention to racial injustice. We also explore how the pandemic has changed parents’ attitudes and preferences related to school choice. Using online opt-in survey data from 3,654 parents across five states (Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, and Oregon) during spring 2021, we draw six core findings:

  1. Parents on average were generally satisfied with their schools during COVID-19, with some groups of parents expressing particularly high levels of satisfaction: parents in private schools, those with higher incomes, those with kids learning in person, and those residing in Florida.
  2. Yet, many parents felt their child was receiving less instruction than they would in a typical year.
  3. A majority of parents wanted to see an emphasis on race, equity, and diversity in the school curriculum.
  4. Many parents were considering remote schooling options for the coming year (2021-22).
  5. When considering where to enroll their child, parents reported that health and safety protocols, a caring environment, and social-emotional learning increased in importance since the start of the pandemic.
  6. Lower income parents, Black parents, and to a lesser extent, Latinx parents were more likely to indicate concerns about their children’s education relative to other groups.
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