Should school boards dictate what’s taught in schools? Teachers say no

A new poll from NPR and Ipsos reveals how teachers and parents perceive K12 education and who they trust to make decisions about their curriculum.

Despite headlines portraying that ‘doomsday’ has fallen over K12 education as evidenced by the persistent shortage of teachers, political intervention and other current issues, an overwhelming amount of teachers are happy they entered the profession in the first place. However, there is division surrounding who should make curriculum-based decisions that ultimately decide what teachers signed up to do: teach.

These conclusions come from the latest nationally representative NPR/Ipsos polls based on responses from parents and teachers. The two surveys—one addressing each population group—serve as an updated snapshot of the general public’s views toward public education, including topics like teacher satisfaction, curriculum-based decisions and other current K12 trends.

Let’s take a look at their findings:

Who should decide curriculum?

While parents and teachers are rather split on who should be responsible for what’s taught in the classroom, one thing’s for sure: politicians shouldn’t have the final say.

According to the K12 parents, 30% of them trust teachers to make these decisions. Twenty-eight percent believe parents should have this responsibility, and 25% say school boards.

Oppositely, most teachers (60%) believe they should have the final word. Additionally, only 15% trust their school boards to make such decisions, and only 10% would give that responsibility to parents. These numbers fall even lower when politicians enter the conversation.

Fewer than one in ten Americans and K12 parents alike believe federal legislators or state legislators should be “primarily responsible for what is taught in public schools,” according to the survey. Only 7% of teachers also feel this way for both state and federal lawmakers.

Top-of-mind issues

For both the general public and teachers alike, teacher burnout and unfair compensation are among the most pressing issues educators face today. Yet, most teachers are satisfied with their careers.

Seventy-three percent of teachers believe the public’s perception of them has gotten worse in the past decade.

When asked open-endedly what words or phrases come to mind when thinking about K12 teachers, respondents overwhelmingly reported that teachers were underpaid and overworked.

Sixty-nine percent of Americans and 79% of teachers disagree with the notion that teachers are paid fairly. Furthermore, 75% of Americans and 93% of teachers are asked to do too much for the compensation they receive, and 66% of parents say they’d worry about their child’s finances if they became a teacher.

Forty-two percent of parents and 46% of teachers believe the quality of public education in their area has gotten worse over the past 10 years. Forty-four percent and 60%, respectively, feel that the working conditions of their educators have also worsened.

But despite all of the reported challenges educators face today, an overwhelming majority (80%) of them say they’re happy they entered the profession in the first place.

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Book bans and classroom restrictions are troubling

Following recent events across the country to limit what can and can’t be taught in the classroom, both the general public and K12 parents oppose these efforts, regardless of political affiliation.

Two-thirds of parents and 69% of the general public oppose state lawmakers enacting book bans. Sixty percent of K12 parents and 64% of Americans say the same for their school boards.

Sixty-two percent of K12 parents and 67% of Americans overall don’t support state lawmakers restricting what can and can’t be taught in the classroom. This is also true for 56% of parents and 64% of Americans regarding individual school boards.

Eighty-one percent of parents support teaching about the history of slavery, racism and segregation in public schools.

Teacher shortages overpower issues like book bans and censorship

Most parents report that teacher shortages are “far more common” than book bans or restrictions on classroom discussions.

More than half (56%) of K12 parents say their local community has recently faced teacher shortages. On the other hand, only 19% have experienced restrictions on classroom discussions, specifically surrounding gender, sexuality, race or racism.

Americans in urban (50%), rural (45%) and suburban (45%) areas reported experiencing teacher shortages recently. Just under 20% of Americans from each area say they’ve faced book bans or restrictions on classroom instruction.

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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