The number of Americans who say K12 education is “heading in the right direction” has declined sharply—but that’s according to the latest “Schooling in America” survey by a leading school choice advocacy group. And while the increasingly competitive school choice landscape may be among many administrators’ top 10 concerns as the new year gets underway, EdChoice’s poll aims to warn K12 leaders of the issues that parents are most worried about.
More than two-thirds of the 2,700 parents and adults surveyed by the nonprofit said K12 is “on the wrong track,” a 17% increase from 2021. School safety, class size, flexibility in their child’s educational options and the costs of education are among parents’ top concerns, EdChoice asserts. “In the last few years, a number of states have enacted or expanded universal/near-universal school choice programs,” said EdChoice Vice President of Research and Innovation Paul DiPerna.
Here are EdChoice’s top 10 takeaways from its “2023 Schooling in America Survey”:
1. Parents and the general public are more pessimistic. The percentage of parents who say they are optimistic about K12 education fell 5 points from 2022 to 2023, from 48% to 43%. Public district school parents are more pessimistic than private school families.
2. Private school and homeschool parents are most likely to say they are “very satisfied” with their child’s education. Overall parent satisfaction is high, regardless of the type of school. Nearly three in four private, charter and homeschool parents are “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with their child’s schooling experience, as are 57% of public district school parents.
3. Parents choose schools for a variety of different reasons. More parents are now prioritizing safety when choosing schools and it is the No. 1 factor for families who chose public charter and homeschooling. Convenience of location and socialization of their children were the top two reasons given by parents who chose public schools.
4. Safety is on parents’ minds. Charter (65%) and private school parents (58%) are most concerned about a violent intruder entering their child’s school. Public school parents (46%) were less likely than other adults to be “extremely” or “very” concerned.
5. Americans are much less likely to say state education spending is “low too” when shown actual funding levels. When asked generally about state K12 funding, a clear majority of parents say it is too low. But less than half said the same when they were shown per-pupil expenditure levels in their state.
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6. About one-third of parents have switched schools. Student anxiety and bullying were the two problems parents cited for switching their children’s schools. Academic needs not being met and bad peer groups were next on the list.
7. Parents are not completely satisfied with how public schools handle bullying, violent behaviors, guns and mental health. Public K12 parents were the least confident about how their child’s school handles guns (47%), violent behaviors (41%), mental health (39%) and bullying (36%).
8. Parents’ estimates of their child’s class sizes don’t match their preferences. Most parents want their children to be in classes with fewer than 20 students but guess those classes have as many as 25 students. These preferences hold for elementary, middle and high school.
9. The majority of Americans support school choice. More than two-thirds of parents said they favor school choice. Also, more adults said they had never heard of school choice than were opposed to it.
10. Education Savings Accounts remain the most popular educational choice policy. Three in four Americans support ESAs, which is relatively unchanged from 2022. However, ESAs are the least well-known educational choice policy among the public, compared to school vouchers and charter schools.
The full Schooling in America survey provides more detail on each of the issues above.