Texans hesitant about sending children back to school when they open, strongly support additional online public schools for students
For Immediate Release
May 21, 2020
Austin – The National Coalition for Public School Options (NCPSO) of Texas today released two separate surveys fielded earlier this month by WPAi. The May 5th poll indicated parents of school-aged children have reservations about sending children back to school once the state and/or local leaders re-open schools for classroom instruction again, and a plurality of parents would not be satisfied with the current remote learning regimen if schools remain closed in the fall.
A subsequent survey, fielded May 12-14, included additional questions on remote learning, which included the finding that 66 percent of Texas voters agree the, “state legislature should allow for additional online public schools to open up and serve students statewide in Texas.”
“While parents recognize local schools are scrambling to do the best they can with remote learning options in the midst of this pandemic, there is strong support for providing better options for students if school remains closed in the fall,” said Kim Jessup, Coalition Manager for the NCPSO-Texas chapter.
“The survey found a plurality of parents would hold their kids back for at least a few weeks once schools re-open, which means the state needs to give parents access to more innovative online school opportunities,” said Jessup.
Sixty percent of school-aged parents in the May 5th survey indicated they are satisfied with current video instruction provided by local districts. About half that amount – 31 percent – said they were dissatisfied with district-provided, online distance learning for their children.
But when asked if they would be satisfied with current programs extending into the next school year, a plurality – 47 percent – said no, while 42 percent answered they would be satisfied.
In the May 12-14 survey, 75 percent of Texas voters indicated support for additional remote learning options, including, “live classes, more engaging online programs, and supplemental help and tutoring” in the event schools remain closed in the fall.
One key finding in that survey is two-thirds of voters see the need for additional online public schools to open in Texas beyond the five allowed under law today.
“It’s clear the state needs to identify a long-term, virtual education solution for families hesitant to send their children back to school, or for a sizable percentage of families not satisfied with current online options beyond the current school year,” said Shea Mackin, a Texas member of the NCPSO. “Our parents believe our Texas policymakers need to end the moratorium and enrollment restrictions on full-time, online schools so more innovative technology and curriculum can be provided to more children during this pandemic.”
Texas limits full-time, online learning to five school districts grandfathered into the program when a legislative moratorium was placed on new providers in 2013. The state also prevents students in grades K-2 from learning in full-time, online programs, and requires all students – except military families – to enroll in brick-and-mortar public schools the year prior to enrolling into a full-time, online public school.
Like all public schools in Texas, virtual school students in Texas are educated by qualified public school teachers, taught according to the state’s TEKS curriculum standards, and take state assessments.
On the issue of school re-openings, the May 5th survey found 38 percent of parents said they would send their children back to school immediately, while 13 percent said they would do so after a few weeks, 22 percent said they would do so after a month or longer, and 8 percent said they simply would not send their children back to school.
“A perfect storm is brewing in Texas,” said Mackin. “Online school options are severely limited, parents are unlikely to tolerate the current programs developed in the midst of this pandemic for much longer, and experts are predicting a viral resurgence in the fall that could keep many schools closed. It’s time to open up Texas to online educational innovation, or our students will suffer from time lost in the classroom.”
“The only public schoolchildren whose learning has not been severely disrupted this spring are the 16,000 students enrolled in full-time, online public schools in Texas,” said Mackin. “As brick-and-mortar schools closed, virtual school students continued their education from their homes as if nothing changed. We need to give more children this kind of continuity going forward.”
NCPSO is a parent-led organization that advocates for additional public school options for families. Many of their families enroll students in virtual schools as a unique fit for one or more of their kids. Full-time, online public schools are popular for students who have suffered from bullying, those who need flexible schedules, children who are sick or hospitalized, those who are advanced learners, children with special needs, and those who have fallen behind in more traditional classroom settings.
The May 5 survey was conducted by national polling firm WPAi, with a sample that included 414 Texas parents of school-aged children. Results for the entire sample are attached with this release. The May 12-14 survey was also conducted by WPAi, and included results from 806 likely voters. Both were statewide surveys with representative samples across all demographic groups in Texas.