DENVER – A new public opinion poll, commissioned by education reform advocacy group Ready Colorado, shows dramatic shifts in public opinion on K-12 education issues, including overwhelming opposition to remote learning, a collapse in public support for teachers unions, and strong support for parents having a major say in what their children are taught in schools.
The survey found voters’ top priority for the governor and state government is returning to normal after the COVID pandemic, including strong support for efforts to help recover student learning loss and prioritizing school spending in the classroom and on increasing teacher salaries.
The survey, fielded January 12 and 13 with a margin of error of +/- 3.85%, was conducted by Cygnal, a polling firm named by the New York Times as the most accurate pollster in the nation in 2018 and who called 95% of races correctly in 2020. The sample was 25% Republican, 35% Democrat and 37% Unaffiliated.
“Colorado voters overwhelmingly want schools to return to normal and prioritize helping students recover from the tremendous learning loss and mental health trauma that the pandemic has caused,” said Brenda Dickhoner, President and CEO of Ready Colorado. “Notably, support for school choice and charter schools, already strong in Colorado, has continued to grow. Charter schools have a 4:1 favorable image among parents, a strong endorsement of the many outstanding educators at charter schools who are tirelessly working to provide high-quality, personalized learning environments.”
The poll found that Colorado voters strongly oppose closing schools and transitioning to remote learning in the wake of the Omicron variant by a 56%-32% majority, which widens to 3-1 opposition among parents, who overwhelmingly oppose remote learning by a 67-23% margin.
The survey found a dramatic drop-off in support for teachers’ unions, who vociferously pushed for remote learning and delaying the reopening of schools throughout the pandemic. When compared to the previous Ready Colorado survey conducted in December 2019, the favorability of teachers’ unions fell a stunning 23 points—going from a 55-33% favorable image in December 2019 to a 43-44% unfavorable image in January 2022.
Notably, amid national debates about transparency around what kids are taught in school, 76% of all Colorado voters believe that parents should have “a lot” or “some” say over what their children are taught in schools. Unaffiliated and Republican voters are in alignment when it comes to the role that parents should have in determining what schools teach, with 42% of Republicans and 40% of Unaffiliateds saying parents should have “a lot of say” compared to only 12% of Democrats.
The three most popular policies tested were to provide $500 in tax credits for teachers that have used personal funds to pay for classroom supplies (86% support), giving grants to schools to help students recover from learning losses in math (78% support), and requiring school districts to post their curriculum and educational materials on their websites so parents can know what their children are being taught (78% support).
Strong majority support was also found for expanding school choice options for parents, including providing options outside of the traditional public school system, which is supported by 72% of voters, and giving school districts additional funds if they spend at least two-thirds of their budget in the classroom as opposed to administrative overhead, supported by 71% of voters.