K-12 education quality a top concern for voters headed into 2023

N.C. old Education Building. Photo by Maya Reagan, Carolina Journal

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  • 72% of voters believe “improving K-12 education" should be a top priority for lawmakers
  • 64% of voters agree that “parents should have more control than they do right now over what their children are being taught in public schools.”

Although issues like the economy, inflation, and abortion were top-of-mind for voters in the midterm election, concerns over the quality of our nation’s K-12 education system weren’t far behind. That’s the conclusion of a new poll of voters in key battleground states commissioned by the Walton Family Foundation.

The poll found that 72% of voters believe “improving K-12 education” should be a top priority for state lawmakers headed into 2023. Only the economy and inflation ranked higher at 76%.

By a 64% to 34% margin, voters additionally agree that “parents should have more control than they do right now over what their children are being taught in public schools.”

Voters were split on which political party would do a better job addressing education issues, with 45% saying they trust Republicans more and 45% choosing Democrats. Nearly one-third of independent voters say they trust neither political party on issues related to K-12 education.

Asked for their assessment of K-12 education overall, 51% of voters overall and 60% of parent voters specifically believe public schools in their state are “off on the wrong track.”

I’m not surprised by the Walton poll results,” said Dr. Robert Luebke, director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation. “They merely confirm what we’ve been saying for a long time: Parents and voters are not happy with K-12 education. They want policymakers to address their concerns and they also want more educational options. Lawmakers serious about real education reform, will not only note the need to act now and but also work for solutions that truly empower parents.”

According to the poll results, Americans are also still deeply concerned about learning losses from pandemic-induced classroom closures. Seventy-five percent said “students are mostly still behind due to school closures” from the pandemic, while two-thirds of parents said their students have lost learning due to the pandemic. On average, parents said their kids missed 21 days of school in 2021 due to the pandemic.

As for what changes need to be in store for K-12 education, in Oct. 2021 36% of voters said they wanted to see “bold changes” for schools, while that number jumped to 46% by Nov. 2022.

Voters’ top priorities include ensuring that every child is on track in reading, writing, and math; addressing the teacher shortage; offering more career and technical education; and improving security and safety on school grounds.

The survey was of 1,200 actual 2022 voters, including 600 voters in the battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The poll was conducted Nov. 4-8 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.83%.