SAN FRANCISCO, April 27, 2022—As conditions in California schools get closer to normal, more than four in ten parents say their children have fallen behind academically during the pandemic. Most Californians approve of the way Governor Newsom is handling K–12 public education, while around half say that a shortage of teachers in public schools is a big problem. These are among the key findings of a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California.
(Note: As a companion to the new survey, PPIC is publishing a blog post by president and CEO Mark Baldassare, “Likely Voters Are Uneasy as California Shifts from Pandemic to Endemic.”)
Nearly half (46%) of parents with school-aged children say their youngest school-aged child has fallen behind academically during the pandemic (19% a lot, 25% a little, 2% fallen behind but not sure how much). Public school parents are similarly likely to report that their youngest has fallen behind (20% a lot, 26% a little, 1% unsure how much). Among parents of school-aged children, those without a college degree are much more likely to say their youngest school-aged child has fallen behind (not a college graduate: 25% a lot, 26% a little, 1% unsure how much; college graduate: 7% a lot, 22% a little, 6% unsure how much). Parents with lower annual household incomes are much more likely to say this (income less than $60,000: 27% a lot, 28% a little; income $60,000 or more: 11% a lot, 22% a little, 5% unsure how much).
A plurality of adults (47%) and public school parents (45%) identify catching up academically as the biggest challenge for public school students in the next year. At least one-third of adults (33%) and public school parents (40%) think dealing with the social-emotional impacts of the pandemic will be the biggest challenge.
“Many parents report their child has fallen behind academically during the pandemic while also noting its social and emotional challenges,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO.
The new statewide survey also finds:
- Majorities approve of the governor’s handling of K–12 education, though many believe the quality of K–12 education has declined. Most adults (60%), likely voters (57%), and public school parents (73%) approve of how Governor Newsom is handling the state’s public K–12 system. While the governor’s handling of K–12 education has garnered majority approval since 2019, his approval rate has risen somewhat among public school parents since a year ago (from 64% to 73%). Most adults (57%), likely voters (52%), and public school parents (70%) believe the state’s K–12 system is going in the right direction. The share of public school parents holding this view is somewhat larger than it was a year ago (70% vs. 61%).
“Majorities approve of Governor Newsom’s handling of K–12 public education and think that K–12 public education is going in the right direction,” Baldassare said.
While majorities approve of the overall direction of K–12 education, there nonetheless is some concern about its quality. When asked about the quality of education in California public schools, 42 percent of adults and 34 percent of public school parents say it has gotten worse in the past few years. Thirteen percent of adults say it has improved, and 42 percent say it has stayed the same. Among public school parents, 22 percent say it has improved and 44 percent say it has stayed the same.
“One-third or more adults and public school parents say the quality of K–12 public education has gotten worse, while few say it has improved in the past few years,” Baldassare said.
- Most public school parents give their neighborhood public schools As or Bs. Asked to grade the quality of their own neighborhood schools, 50 percent of adults give their local school an A (12%) or B (38%). Sixty-three percent of public school parents give their schools an A (14%) or B (49%); the share of As is up 8 points from a year ago.
“Half of adults and about six in ten public school parents give A or B grades when asked about the quality of public schools in their neighborhood today,” Baldassare said.
- Majorities support ending the state mask mandate for schools but support requiring vaccines. Since March 11, the state has strongly recommended—but not mandated—masking in schools. Solid majorities of adults (61%) and public school parents (74%) support the move away from a mandate, including majorities across partisan groups. Strong majorities believe that federally approved COVID vaccines should be required for teachers (71% adults, 68% public school parents) and students (68% adults, 66% public school parents).
“Most agree with the decision to no longer require masks in schools, while requiring COVID vaccines for students and teachers has strong support,” Baldassare said.
- Solid majorities say teacher salaries are too low, while around half see teacher shortages as a big problem. About six in ten adults (62%) and public school parents (62%) say teacher salaries in their communities are too low. The share saying this has remained similar since 2019. African Americans (80%) are much more likely than other racial/ethnic groups to say teacher pay is too low (61% among Asian Americans, Latinos, and whites).
Asked about a shortage of teachers, around half of adults (52%) and public school parents (49%) say it is a big problem; the share saying it is a big problem has trended upward since 2020. Solid majorities of adults (66%) and public school parents (64%) say local schools in lower-income areas should pay higher salaries to attract and retain teachers.
“Majorities believe that salaries for teachers are too low in their community, and many perceive a shortage of teachers as a big problem,” Baldassare said.
- Californians view preschool as important and back state funding for preschool programs. Overwhelming majorities of adults (77%) and public school parents (81%) see preschool as at least somewhat important to a student’s success in kindergarten through grade 12. This includes solid majorities across parties and overwhelming majorities across racial/ethnic groups. Around three-quarters of adults (72%) and public school parents (76%) think California should fund voluntary preschool programs—such as transitional kindergarten—for all four-year-olds in the state. Overwhelming majorities of Democrats (84%) and independents (70%) and about half of Republicans (48%) express support.
“Most Californians believe that preschool is important for student success and want the state to fund preschool for all four-year-olds in California,” 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 1,591 California adult residents. The sampling error is ±3.3 percent for the total unweighted sample, ±3.9 percent for the 1,059 likely voters, ±6.1 percent for the 424 parents of children under 18, ±6.9 percent for the 342 parents of school-aged children, and ±7.2 percent for the 307 public school parents. Interviewing took place from March 30–April 13, 2022. For more information, please see the methodology section in the full survey report.
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.