This has been quite a time for public schools in the United States, from pandemic-induced closures to nationwide clashes over one issue after another. In this context, it’s natural to wonder and perhaps worry about how American attitudes toward public education are changing.
last week, education next 16th annual release pollAwesome features of . Ednext Several items in the poll are repeated each year, providing a glimpse into trends in American thinking.
One of the survey’s more notable findings came from perhaps the most important question. Ednext Respondents were asked to assign letter grades to “public schools across the country.” Below I have charted the percentage of all respondents (grey), Republicans (red), and Democrats (blue) who assigned a very negative rating of ‘D’ or ‘F’. While Democrats’ reaction has changed relatively little between 2016 and 2022, Republican dissatisfaction has surged ominously. In 2022, his 37% of Republicans gave her D or F grades in U.S. public schools.that’s the biggest share Ednext recorded Since voting started.
While the redline rise itself may not be all that alarming, the decline in Republican interest in public schools Ednext Investigation.gallup June 2022 poll, found that only 13% of Republicans (and 43% of Democrats) have “extremely” or “extremely” trust in U.S. public schools. For context, 15% of Republicans show a similar level of confidence in an organized workforce.
And it’s not just showing up in K-12 education. Before the pandemic Pew Research Center It captured a sharp rise in Republican negativity toward American colleges and universities. Note the spike in the pink line in Figure 2. I don’t know the exact cause, but protest and cancellation Statements by right-wing speakers on college campuses have reinforced the claim that colleges are places of indoctrination. This is a claim conservatives are making more and more about his K-12 school.It’s also worth noting that many Republican leaders are taking more Aggressive posture Against state public universities because of a change in attitude.
Figure 2. Trends in American opinion of US universities
We need to clarify what these questions are asking and what they are not asking.of Ednext The item does not ask whether respondents rate public schools as institutions, but rather whether respondents believe public schools perform well. We are completely unanimous in believing that public schools are essential US educational institutions, yet failing is necessary because of poor grades. That may be the view of many survey respondents.
Even more disturbing is the view that public schools are less essential. Americans have a long history of appreciating the idea of public education.and 2002 bookStanford political scientist Terry Moe defined what he called our “public school ideology” as follows:
Many Americans simply love the idea of a public school system. They see it as an expression of local democracy and a pillar of their community, they admire its underlying egalitarian principles and believe it deserves our commitment and support… and an emotional inclination to view public schools sympathetically, no matter what they actually do.
Moe’s tone is somewhat slanderous, as he believes our sentiments about public education distort our ability to see its real-world flaws. But taking a step back, I think most Americans would agree that generations of our commitment to universal public education has served the country well.
There are more and more reasons to wonder about the persistence of that commitment.and 2020 bookJack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire, warned of an escalating threat to public schools from reformists who are taking an ever more hostile approach to public education. Over the past two years, that threat has become clearer and stronger as the educational political coalition has changed.
I admit I’m oversimplifying here, but it’s especially worrying to me that two groups of conservatives come together.
First, Republican leaders don’t seem to care much about education. itself But look at the opportunities to use schools for political gain. The group has addressed issues of culture wars, such as transgender students playing sports. There is no clear theory for improving education. It’s a relentless offensive spirit that resonates with many Republicans today. Let’s call this his DeSantis division of today’s conservative education coalition.
Then there’s a group of conservative leaders who seem to care about education, but don’t particularly care about it. public education. This group has a theory of school improvement. Above all, they are skeptical of government-run schooling and are drawn to supposed market efficiencies. Let’s call this his DeVos division of the Conservative Education Coalition.
The latter group spent decades searching for allies who could find them, and found quite a few Democrats. For these alliances to work, they had to emphasize certain principles (such as equity or a strong public education system) and show restraint in rhetoric and policy-making. As a result, the spread of charter schools as a voucher program has stagnated. After that, the politics of the country changed. When these conservatives no longer found Democratic supporters, they turned to the right-wing culture warriors. sometimes explicitlyAs a result, rhetoric has become more hostile to public schools, policy goals have become less focused on tackling inequality, and initiatives built to undermine the public education system.
The clearest example is Arizona’s new policy allowing all families to use public funds for private schooling regardless of need. This policy is hostile to public schools in its design as it can divert vast amounts of money from public schools. Also, its presentation is adversarial.Governor Ducey news release advertised that “our kids will no longer be stuck in underperforming schools,” and took the words of Chris Ruffo, the architect of the Republican school-based culture war strategy.
Consider me one of those people who thinks we are not on the right track. It’s hard to say where that path will lead, but we can make some educated guesses.
1. Further separate education policy in Red and Qingzhou
Mike Petrilli of the Fordham Institute recently wrote about the bipartisan “Washington Consensus” that sustained a series of education policy reforms in the 1990s and early 2000s. One of the results of that consensus, he said, was policies that appeared to be similar from state to state, whether by force (e.g., a requirement to leave no behind) or by shared priorities. .
Now that that consensus has been dissolved, there’s no doubt we’ll see more differences in policy between Democratic and Republican-led states. Today, there is a greater gulf between a political party’s educational priorities, a federal law that imposes fewer restrictions on states (such as NCLB replacing her ESSA), and the Supreme Court upholding it. open the door Widely in private school choice programs. We should expect the Republican-led state to walk through its doors of private school choice. And we should expect Republican governors and lawmakers to continue pursuing inflammatory policies until the political costs of doing so outweigh the benefits. we saw in florida.
2. Increased intrastate conflicts between state, local, and school leaders
More differences in priorities between Democrats and Republicans means more disagreements within the state as well. These can be done in multiple ways. Expect tumultuous confrontations between state and local leaders of various political parties along the lines of the battle over mask mandates in Florida and Virginia. Far quieter cases of non-compliance and unremarkable resistance can be expected in schools that do not recognize decisions made.
3. More aggressive movement towards public education and government support for public schools
Arizona’s expanded private school selection program stands out for its breadth and boldness, but it probably won’t last long. Even before the latest Supreme Court decision on Maine’s voucher program, it favored the choice of private schools. Moving forward at the state levelThese will surely continue in Republican-dominated states.
Hostility toward public schools will manifest itself in other ways.Just this summer, an ex-American president When education secretary Pennsylvania’s Republican gubernatorial candidate has vowed to abolish the U.S. Department of Education (and, presumably, to seek to abolish much of the federal funding that comes through it). cut in half Part of state public education funding.
So what should we do about this?
I have a few thoughts. First, this is the time to increase federal protections for vulnerable and disadvantaged students. Student civil rights and access to basic resources should not be subject to the whims of state and local political leaders. The Biden administration and Congress must do all they can to ensure the protection of LGBTQ+ students, immigrants, students of color, poor students, and other vulnerable groups.
Additionally, Democrats need to stop exacerbating the Republican’s most outrageous ideas and accusations about public schools.i am a democrat too timid in educational politics in the last few years.
And conservatives involved in education policy need to be more willing to draw the line if they feel uncomfortable with the direction of the Republican Party. They can follow the guidance of Utah Governor Spencer his Cox. I drew a line like this Resist Republican hostility toward transgender students.
Let me be clear: things could be much worse than they are now. We need to keep them from going there.