Rarely if ever does one see this level of consensus on a political question — and rarely if ever do we get as little political action on it. A new Gallup poll shows American parents overwhelmingly want schools to reopen, with 79% wanting that to happen immediately. Self-described Democrats offer the least support for immediate reopening, but almost two-thirds of those parents want their kids back in school right now too:
Nearly one year into the pandemic, an estimated one in three K-12 students in the U.S. do not currently have any options for in-person schooling. Many frustrated parents have been vocally pushing for a return to the classroom, citing concerns about the damage to their children’s academic progress, psychological health and social development, and Gallup’s latest data find 79% of parents of K-12 students in the U.S. favor in-person learning in their communities right now.
Although majorities of parents across major demographic subgroups are supportive of in-school learning for elementary and secondary school students, some are particularly so. Among them are working parents (82%), those living in the Northeast region of the U.S. (90%) and those who identify as Republicans (94%).
Among Democrats, it’s 62/38 in favor of reopening. Bear in mind too that this survey took place a month ago, from February 14-21. With vaccinations finally accelerating and cases and deaths declining significantly, those numbers are likely trending even further toward reopening.
One point to note in particular undercuts the whole “parents just want babysitters” argument coming from teachers unions:
Working parents have had a particularly challenging experience during the pandemic as many have had to manage their own work schedules while helping their children with fully remote or hybrid learning since last March. This tension has been blamed for stress in their jobs and a deficit in their children’s learning.
It has also had an economic effect on some households as 13% of working parents report they reduced their work hours, and 7% quit their jobs to help a child with remote learning.
That certainly explains why working parents split 82/18 in favor of immediately reopening schools. It doesn’t explain why non-working parents split 71/29 in the same direction. That may be better explained by the tremendously negative impact that these closures have had on children across the United States — and the sense that there is no scientific basis for continuing those closures, especially now.
How does this square with the Pew poll showing 66% of Democrats in favor of extending the school closures? Allahpundit wrote about that on Monday, calling it more depressing than Andrew Cuomo’s approval ratings. It could be a difference in how the questions were asked, but it also might be the specific polling by Gallup among parents rather than voters in general. Perhaps there are more singles among Democrats than there are among Republicans. Or it might just be polling variability; both pollsters are well established and usually considered reliable. Gallup’s sample was a bit on the small side for a national survey — 860 respondents — but that’s not too anemic, and the splits are so lopsided that any reliability issues would only nibble at the margins.
With this kind of overwhelming consensus, why are political leaders dragging their feet in ordering schools to reopen? And a better question: with this lack of response, shouldn’t the GOP ramp up its policy proposals to expand school choice? There might be a lot of parents, even Democratic parents, who are getting more sympathetic to the idea that their tax dollars should fund schools that actually teach children.
Addendum: Just to underscore the science, the New York Times reported yesterday on data from the Big Apple’s schools:
New York City’s public schools have seen remarkably low virus transmission compared with the citywide rate of positive test results in the months since the nation’s largest school system reopened for thousands of students, according to a major new peer-reviewed study in the medical journal Pediatrics.
Of over 200,000 people who were tested in city school buildings from October to December, only .4 percent of tests came back positive for the coronavirus. That was during a period when virus cases were spiking in the community.
And even when cases were detected, relatively few close contacts in the school ended up testing positive for the virus during the same period: .5 percent of school-based contacts who quarantined contracted the virus.
“In-person learning in New York City public schools was not associated with increased prevalence or incidence overall of Covid-19 infection compared with the general community,” the study’s authors wrote. The study was led by Dr. Jay Varma, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s senior health adviser.