Note: Results on Californians’ economic outlook as well as on concerns among all adults about COVID-19 causing a family member’s illness or a negative impact on personal finances were released publicly on Monday, April 20, and are not under this embargo.
SAN FRANCISCO, April 22, 2020—Many California parents see local school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic as at least somewhat of a problem, and around two in three are concerned about providing productive learning at home. Still, more than nine in ten parents of children 18 or under approve of how their local school district is handling the school closures, while solid majorities approve of Governor Newsom’s handling of K–12 education overall. These are among the key findings of a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California.
Asked to name the most important issue facing the state’s public schools today, California adults (14%) and public school parents (16%) are most likely to name COVID-19 and distance learning, followed by lack of funding (11% adults, 10% public school parents), concerns about curriculum (9% adults, 8% public school parents), large class sizes (7% adults, 9% public school parents), and concerns about standards/quality of education (5% adults, 8% public school parents).
Many parents of children 18 or under (52% parents, 58% public school parents) say the local school closures due to COVID-19 pose a big problem or somewhat of a problem. Asked how concerned they are about providing productive learning at home, solid majorities (63% parents, 70% public school parents) say they are very or somewhat concerned. Parents with annual household incomes less than $60,000 (69%) are more likely than parents with household incomes of $60,000 or more (56%) to be at least somewhat concerned about offering learning at home.
“COVID-19 is the most important issue facing schools today as many parents report having problems with school closures and express concerns about learning at home,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO.
Overwhelming majorities of Californians (78% adults, 83% public school parents) are either very or somewhat worried that they or a family member will get sick from the coronavirus. Similar shares (75% adults, 85% public school parents) are very or somewhat worried that the pandemic will have a negative impact on their personal finances.
Governor’s Handling of K–12 Education and Local Districts’ Handling of School Closures Have Strong Approval
Overwhelming majorities of Californians (73% adults, 78% public school parents) approve of Governor Newsom’s handling of K–12 education. This is a notable increase from April 2019, when 53 percent of adults and 68 percent of public school parents approved. More than nine in ten parents (93% parents, 92% public school parents) approve of how their local school district is handling school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The April PPIC Survey finds overwhelming approval of the way that Governor Newsom is handling K–12 education and how local school districts are handling school closures,” Baldassare said.
Views Are Mixed on Issuing School Bonds, Slim Majority Supports “Split Roll” Property Tax
Optimism about the state’s economy has dropped substantially. Only about one in five (19%) Californians say they expect good financial times in the state during the next 12 months. This is down from 49 percent in January 2020 and is lower than at any point since the Great Recession.
A majority of Californians (59% adults, 53% likely voters, 78% public school parents) say they would vote yes today on a state bond measure to pay for school construction projects, while there is a similar level of support (55% adults, 50% likely voters, 74% public school parents) for a bond measure from their local school district. (Local school bonds need a 55% majority to pass.) However, slightly smaller shares (51% adults, 44% likely voters, 71 % public school parents) say that now is a good time for the state government to issue school construction bonds or for local school districts to issue construction bonds (49% adults, 43% likely voters, 64% public school parents).
“With most Californians in a pessimistic mood about the economy, fewer than half of California likely voters say it is a good idea to issue state and local school bonds at this time,” Baldassare said.
A ballot measure eligible for the November 2020 statewide ballot would tax commercial properties at their current market value but would not lift limits that Prop 13 (1978) places on residential property taxes—creating a “split roll” property tax system. A slim majority of Californians (53% adults, 53% likely voters, 62% public school parents) support a ballot measure that would make this change and direct some of the new revenues to funding for public schools. In April 2019, 56 percent of adults, 54 percent of likely voters, and 67 percent of public school parents said they would vote yes. Today, Democrats (71%) are far more likely than independents (44%) and Republicans (24%) to say they would vote yes.
“A slim majority in favor of the ‘split roll’ property tax initiative for more school funding is a result of strong support among Democrats while majorities of Republicans and independents are opposed,” Baldassare said.
Most Approve of State’s K–12 School Funding Formula
After reading a brief description of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), the system enacted seven years ago for state funding of K–12 schools, overwhelming majorities (71% adults, 79% public school parents) approve. Also, solid majorities (62% adults, 72% public school parents) think the academic achievement of English language learners and low-income students will improve because of the LCFF.
Overwhelming majorities (80% adults, 81% public school parents) are either very or somewhat concerned about college readiness among public school students in lower-income areas. Asked about English language learners, strong majorities (70% adults, 70% public school parents) are either very or somewhat concerned about improving outcomes for these students, while about nine in ten (88% adults, 93% percent) say doing so is either very or somewhat important for Californian’s future.
“Most Californians support the state’s efforts to direct more funding to lower-income and English Learner students as they cite concerns about their college readiness and their importance to the state’s future,” Baldassare said.
About the Survey
The Californians and Education survey is supported with funding from the Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation, the Sobrato Family Foundation, and the Stuart Foundation.
The findings presented above are based on responses from 1,633 California adult residents. The sampling error is ±3.3 percent for the total unweighted sample. Interviewing took place on weekend days and weekday nights from April 1–9, 2020. For more information on methodology, see page 20.
Mark Baldassare is president and CEO of PPIC, where he holds the Arjay and Frances Fearing Miller Chair in Public Policy. He is founder of the PPIC Statewide Survey, which he has directed since 1998.
The Public Policy Institute of California is dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research. We are a public charity. We do not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor do we endorse, support, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office. Research publications reflect the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of our funders or of the staff, officers, advisory councils, or board of directors of the Public Policy Institute of California.