America’s Parents Express Overwhelming Support for Teachers, Their Unions and Public Education

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A supermajority of U.S. parents give their public schools and teachers top marks for their Herculean efforts to respond to the challenges of COVID-19, fresh polling shows, with perceptions of teachers unions soaring to record highs.

Black parents and parents in urban areas in particular feel that teachers and their unions have played an overwhelmingly positive role, and they blame the virus—rather than the professionals charged with their kids’ care—for difficulties during the pandemic.

Overall, 72 percent of parents say their school provides excellent or good-quality education, and 78 percent endorse the quality and performance of their teachers, up 7 points from 2013, according to a new national survey by Hart Research Associates and Lake Research Partners. 

Teachers unions are seen by parents as a more positive force in education today than prior to the pandemic, mirroring public polling conducted over the past year and tracking record high support for the labor movement as a whole. 

AFT President Randi Weingarten said the survey confirms what she has seen in her months of school visits throughout the country. “Parents value educators’ heroic actions to help their kids through COVID and view them as partners to keep schools open safely and deliver the social, emotional and academic support kids need.”

“This polling shows the virus is our enemy, not each other. Parents are saying teachers are heroes for their efforts during this pandemic and they deeply value how their public schools have gone above and beyond to help their kids recover and thrive,” she said.

“Some on the far right have tried to exploit this crisis to usher in a shameful new chapter of teacher bashing, but they’re failing dismally. Parents are public school proud, and they are standing with the community, teachers and their unions—not only in defense of public education but also to address inadequate school funding, students’ progress during COVID, lower class size, and the conditions necessary for academic recovery, including enough counselors and nurses and adequate teacher pay.”

Parents are very satisfied with the way their schools have handled the COVID-19 pandemic. Fully 78 percent of parents express satisfaction with their children’s schools’ overall handling of the pandemic, including 82 percent of urban parents, 77 percent of Black parents and 74 percent of Hispanic parents. More specifically, 83 percent are satisfied with the schools’ efforts to keep students and staff safe. 

They blamed the virus, not educators, when schools needed to temporarily switch to remote instruction or make other schedule changes. They do not believe that schools reopened too slowly, and they reject the claim that schools waited too long to resume in-person instruction.

Just 22 percent of parents believe that schools waited too long, while three-fourths feel that the school either struck a good balance between safety and learning (48 percent) or moved too quickly to reopen buildings (26 percent). Just 20 percent of urban parents and 11 percent of Black parents feel that schools waited too long before reopening.

In response to the omicron outbreak, some schools needed to periodically close buildings or temporarily return to online learning in December. Significantly, very few parents (14 percent, including 15 percent of urban parents and 9 percent of Black parents) blame teachers or teachers unions for these disruptions. Instead, most feel that these disruptions were beyond anyone’s control (47 percent) or were the fault of districts and administrators (26 percent).

Parents say their children’s teachers communicate with parents and keep them informed (80 percent), an important reason for these positive views of teachers. Similarly, 79 percent are satisfied with the job their school does communicating with parents about academics. Four in five say they are satisfied with their children’s public schools when it comes to helping their children achieve their full potential, while only 21 percent report feeling dissatisfied.

And, by a remarkable 31-point margin, parents feel that teachers unions have a positive (48 percent), rather than negative (17 percent), effect on the quality of education provided by public schools, a 23-point jump since 2013. Urban parents (62 percent to 9 percent) and Black parents (57 percent to 4 percent) feel that teachers unions are playing a positive role.

Hart Research Associates and Lake Research Partners conducted a national survey of 1,308 public school parents who were registered to vote, including subsamples of 206 Black parents and 240 Hispanic parents.

The survey was completed online between Dec. 15 and Dec. 22, 2021. The margin of error is +/-3.1 percent. The full memo can be viewed here.