In this op-ed from the New York Times Jessica Grose makes some interesting points but I don’t think she’s pointing in quite the right direction. Here’s the kernel of her piece:
In an overview of issues from the 2018 midterms, Pew Research didn’t include education when surveying voters about what they considered “very big” problems; the closest one mentioned was “affordability of a college education.” In Pew’s 2022 midterm overview, however, education ranked sixth, with 58 percent of registered voters saying it’s a matter that’s “very important” to them. This election year, according to Pew, voters care more about education than abortion, immigration and climate change. (Notably, this poll was conducted during the first two weeks of August, after Roe v. Wade was overturned.)
All of this dovetails with what the longtime pollster and communications analyst Frank Luntz, known for his work with Republican candidates and campaigns, has been hearing in focus groups over the past couple of years: Many children are still reeling from the challenges of the pandemic, and not all parents have faith that the public school system can help their kids recover. “I’ve done work with so many education reform efforts, and parents just felt forgotten,” he said.
Luntz added that some parents say: “It’s my number one issue, my major source of frustration. I’m furious at the Democrats for turning it into an ideological issue and at the Republicans for dropping it, and for turning to other things.” Even if they don’t change their votes, they are moving with their feet: A recent survey cited by The 74 found: “Between spring 2021 and spring 2022, there was a 9 percent drop in families saying their children are enrolled in traditional public schools.”
While I think the leaching of trust in public education may not be so dire that it determines something like control of Congress, Luntz isn’t so sure. “It’s not slow. It’s fast,” he said. “That is the difference between you writing the story three years ago and you writing the story today. They were losing faith in 2020, 2019; they lost faith in 2022. That is a very important distinction.”
So, has the public school system lost the faith of the American people? I have long believed (and written) that the schools have a split personality. Are they a method of educating children or are they a strategy for employing adults? I certainly don’t believe that you can shutter the schools for months at a time and accomplish the first objective which leaves the second one.
Furthermore, as the percentage of adults with children declines, how long do you expect support for public schools to be as high as it traditionally has been?
Add all of these factors together and I think we may be nearing a tipping point.