The School Politics Paradox


Recent news coverage of the relationship between politics and public schools has become downright martial. Schools have become “the focal point for culture war fights.” Stories have headlines like “Your Kid’s School is a Midterm Battleground” and “ School Board Elections have Become the New Battleground.” Battles and fights and skirmishes, oh my.

Schools are political entities governed by elected school boards that allot hundreds of billions of tax dollars. Politics are part and parcel of that.

That is why it is rich to see Randi Weingarten, leader of the American Federation of Teachers, quoted in one of the above-linked stories saying, “Normally, our kids have been off-limits. Now, they are the battlefield.” That’s news to me! In fact, there are few less-connected political operators in America than Randi Weingarten and she has routinely used students as pawns in her efforts to maximize benefits for the members of her union.

But when people talk about politics now, they seem to be moving beyond the normal interest group conflicts that have shaped the debate around spending and teacher evaluation and work rules to a more ideological assertion. They are saying that schools are either becoming too liberal or too conservative and that is what people are fighting over.

But is it true? The answer to that reveals one of the great paradoxes of the politics of public education in America. Let’s start with the data.

In September, we asked a nationally representative sample of school parents “To what extent do you feel your youngest/oldest child’s school shares your political views?” (We randomize whether we ask them for the youngest or oldest to make sure not to introduce bias into the survey.) Parents had five potential answers: “My child’s school shares my political views,” “My child’s school is too conservative,” “My child’s school is too liberal,” “I don’t feel that my child’s school is political,” and “Don’t know/no opinion.”

Taken together, those who think that their child’s school is too political is less than 1 in 5 and balanced between those that think it is too liberal and those that think it is too conservative.

In descending order of popularity, public school parents said that they don’t feel that their youngest child’s school is political (39% of respondents), that they don’t know (27%), that the school shares their political views (17%), that their school is too liberal (11%), and that their school is too conservative (7%). The order was the same when the question asked for their oldest child, with the numbers only slightly different (37%/28%/14%/13%/8%).

There were some interesting differences between racial groups in respondents. For example, 41% of white respondents said that they thought their child’s school was not political while only 29% of Black parents thought so. But 25% of Black respondents said that their child’s school shared their politics while only 14% of white parents did.

In October, we asked a nationally representative sample of teachers a similar question, “To what extent do you feel your school shares your political views?” Teachers had five potential answers: “My school shares my political views,” “My school is too conservative,” “my school is too liberal,” “I don’t feel that my school is political,” and “Don’t know/no opinion.”

Taken together, those teachers who think that their school is too political is just under 1 in 4 and balanced between those that think it is too liberal and those that think it is too conservative.

In descending order of popularity, public school teachers said that they don’t feel that their school is political (37% of respondents), that the school shares their political views (20%), that they don’t know (19%), that their school is too liberal (13%), and that their school is too conservative (10%).

There were not large differences across party lines. Fifty-seven percent of teachers who identify as Republicans said that their schools were either not political or shared their views. It was 63% for teachers who identify as Democrats. Yes, Democratic teachers were more likely to say that their school was too conservative than too liberal (14% to 9%) and Republican teachers were more likely to say that their school was too liberal than too conservative (20% to 6%), but these were both minority positions.

These 1 in 5 to 1 in 4 numbers reminded me of a poll question we asked back in the spring. In March, we asked both the general American population and school parents if there had been a protest or major disruption at a school board meeting in their local district. Sixteen percent of Americans (1 in 6) and 21% of parents (1 in 5) said that there had been one. For context, the most popular reason given was masking, the second vaccinations, and the third general COVID-19-related decisions/policies.

Therein lies the paradox. Those who think schools are too political or are seeing demonstrations in their schools are a distinct minority. But, in a huge country like the United States, distinct minorities can still be quite large. One in six of the nation’s 13,350 school districts is 2,225 districts. That is a lot of disruptions. One in four of the nation’s 3.6 million teachers is 900,000 teachers. That is a lot of teachers that think their school is too liberal or too conservative. There are 49 million public school students. Even assuming just one parent per child would fill Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium more than 130 times. That is a lot of people who believe that their child’s school is too political.

Ultimately, whether or not political ideology is running rampant in schools is in the eye of the beholder. If you hear someone tell you that a lot of people are upset with how political schools have gotten, they’re right. If you hear someone say that only a minority of American parents are upset with how political schools have gotten, they’re right too. How we live with and reconcile this paradox will shape the politics of education moving forward.



Source link

Denial of responsibility! galaxyconcerns is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.