Amid Pandemic, Support Soars for Online Learning: Results from the 2020 Education Next survey of public opinion

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From: Education Next(Vol. 21, Issue 1)
Publisher: Hoover Institution Press
Document Type: Survey
Length: 7,508 words
Lexile Measure: 1320L

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FOR 14 YEARS, THE EDUCATION NEXT ANNUAL SURVEY has tracked American opinion on education policy. We have gauged peoples views through the throes of the Great Recession, dramatic changes in partisan control in both Washington, D.C., and state capitals, and attendant shifts in the direction of federal and state education policy. None of that compares to the disruption that unfolded this spring, as the Covid-19 pandemic closed schools nationwide and brought the American economy to its knees.

This year's survey, administered in May 2020, provides an early look at how the experiences of the past few months may shape Americans' views on education policy going forward. The survey's nationally representative sample of 4,291 adults includes an oversampling of teachers and of those who identify themselves as Black and Hispanic. (All results are adjusted for non-response and oversampling; see methods sidebar for details.)

In a companion essay, we report parents' perspectives on their children's educational experiences during the lockdowns (see "What American Families Experienced When Covid-19 Closed Their Schools," features). Here we examine public opinion on issues at the core of education-policy debates as we headed into the height of the 2020 presidential campaign. We start with a summary of the survey's top findings.

1. Teacher Pay. Support for teacher pay hikes remains nearly as high as it has been at any point since 2008, when we first surveyed the public on the issue. Among those given information about current salary levels in their state, 55% say teacher salaries should increase--essentially the same as last year and a jump of 19 percentage points over 2017. Among those not given salary information, 65% back an increase.

2. School Spending. Americans are split on whether to increase overall investment in public schools. Among those told current expenditure levels, 45% say K-12 school spending should increase. This level of support is 5 percentage points lower than last year's, but it still registers 6 points higher than in 2017. Democrat (56%), Black (63%), and Hispanic (55%) respondents are more likely to back a boost in funding than are Republican (31%) and white (39%) respondents.

3. Online Education. Americans' interest in online schooling is on the rise. In 2020, 73% of parents say they are willing to have their child take some high school courses via the Internet--a jump of 17 percentage points over 2009. Parents who report more positive experiences with remote instruction when schools closed this spring are more likely to support online education.

4. School Choice. Support for school-choice reforms either holds steady or declines modestly since last year. The policy of giving tax credits to fund private-school scholarships for low-income students--a concept backed by the Trump administration and recently given a boost by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue--draws the most support, including from 59% of Republicans and 56% of Democrats. Attitudes toward charter schools divide along party lines: 54% of Republicans support charters, compared to only 37% of Democrats. Vouchers to help pay private-school tuition continue to command strong...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A645314680