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Most parents say they don't have enough input on what their kids are learning in public schools: poll

Loudon County parent school board protest
People hold up signs during a rally against “critical race theory” (CRT) being taught in schools at the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg, Virginia on June 12, 2021. “Are you ready to take back our schools?” Republican activist Patti Menders shouted at a rally opposing anti-racism teaching that critics like her say trains white children to see themselves as “oppressors.” “Yes!”, answered in unison the hundreds of demonstrators gathered this weekend near Washington to fight against “critical race theory,” the latest battleground of America’s ongoing culture wars. |

With three weeks to go until the midterm elections, a majority of American parents are expressing concern about the state of public education as the issue remains at the forefront of United States politics. 

A Fox News poll released Tuesday revealed that most American parents believe that public schools are too focused on race and expressed concern that parents do not have enough say over what children learn in school. The survey, conducted from Oct. 9-12, examined the opinions of 1,206 registered voters on various issues facing the country ahead of next month’s midterm elections.

Parents, along with moms and dads on an individual basis, constituted some of the several demographic subgroups whose responses were analyzed in the poll's crosstabs. Four questions in the poll dealt specifically with public education in the U.S.

The first question asked respondents if there was “too much of a focus on race in schools.” Sixty percent of the overall sample answered in the affirmative, with 36% believing that a focus on race was “not a problem.” Among parents, the share of respondents who think a focus on race amounts to a problem rose slightly to 61%. While 68% of moms expressed concern about the focus on race in public schools, just 54% of dads said the same.

The second question in the survey asked U.S. voters if they thought “parents not having enough say over what is taught” in schools was a problem. A supermajority of respondents (64%) characterized lack of parental input in school curriculum as a problem, while 32% did not. 

An even larger number of parents (70%) believed that they did not have enough say in what their children learned in school. There was little difference in the opinion of moms and dads on the matter, with 71% of moms and 68% of dads suggesting that parents did not have enough say in what goes on at school.

When asked about “overly accommodating transgender policies” for trans-identified students, 60% of respondents cited such policies as a problem, while 35% did not. Sixty-three percent of moms identified liberal policies regarding trans-identified students as a problem, as did 57% of dads. 

The survey also inquired whether respondents believed “book banning by school boards” was a major problem. Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed told pollsters that they saw “book banning” as an issue, while 20% said the opposite. 

Parents were slightly less likely than the American public as a whole to view “book banning” as a problem, with 73% of respondents with children, including 75% of moms and 71% of dads characterizing “book banning” as a concern. 

The data released Tuesday is part of a much more comprehensive Fox News poll where most of the results were released last week. On a more general question measuring the degree of concern about “what’s taught in public schools” among the American public as a whole, 41% of respondents described themselves as extremely concerned, followed by 31% who were very concerned, 20% who found themselves not very concerned and 7% who were not at all concerned.

A plurality of parents (46%) reported feeling extremely concerned about “what’s taught in public schools,” as did 33% who were very concerned, 16% who were not very concerned and 5% who were not at all concerned. Similarly, a plurality of moms (43%) reported feeling extremely worried about “what’s taught in public schools,” along with smaller shares who were very concerned (36%), not very concerned (16%) and not at all concerned (4%). This question did not assess the views of dads on this particular issue.

Overall, 1% of respondents classified education as a “deal-breaker” and “an issue that is so important to them that they must agree with a candidate on it, or they will NOT vote for them.” The exact same share of parents and moms (1%) as well as a slightly higher percentage of dads (2%) listed a candidate’s position on education as a “deal-breaker.” 

A slightly higher share of respondents trusted Democrats (47%) to handle “what’s taught in schools” than Republicans (44%). The views among parents on which party would better handle “what’s taught in schools” matched the analysis of the sample as a whole. Forty-nine percent of moms believed that Democrats would better handle the education issue, while 46% thought Republicans would do a better job.

The questions about education in the poll reflect the issue’s growing significance in American politics. Concerns about the focus on race by public schools have led to the rise of advocacy groups such as Parents Defending Education and the 1776 Project PAC, which works to elect school board candidates opposed to critical race theory and seeking to promote “patriotism and pride in American history.”

Earlier this year, Florida enacted a “Parental Rights in Education” bill that prevents school officials from discussing topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity with students in kindergarten through third grade and requires schools to inform parents of any changes to their child’s mental, physical or emotional health. The measure followed reports that schools were addressing children with gender dysphoria by names that differ from the name on their official student record while hiding the social transition from their parents. 

Policies allowing trans-identified students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity have generated explosive discourse at school board meetings across the U.S. The establishment of such a policy in Loudoun County, Virginia, caused particular outrage, especially after it came to light that the school district knew about the sexual assault of a teenage girl in a girls’ bathroom by a boy wearing a skirt when it approved the policy despite assuring parents that no such incidents had occurred. 

Additionally, policies allowing trans-identified students to compete on sports teams based on their chosen gender identity as opposed to their biological sex have become a significant source of contention. Several states have passed laws requiring athletes to compete on sports teams that correspond with their biological sex as critics maintain that allowing trans-identified males to compete on women’s sports teams puts females at a disadvantage in light of the biological differences between males and females.

USA Powerlifting, which requires athletes to compete on teams based on their biological sex, describes the differences between males and females that give males an unfair advantage in sports as “increased body and muscle mass, bone density, bone structure, and connective tissue.” A study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that biological males retain a physiological advantage over biological females even after two years of taking feminizing hormones.

Schools have faced allegations of “book banning” as the inclusion of sexually explicit books in school libraries as well as part of school curriculum has led school districts to re-examine the material accessible to students. In McMinn County, Tennessee, for example, the school board voted to remove the graphic novel Maus from the public schools due to its graphic depiction of a character’s suicide. Critics of the move, including a local Episcopal church, contended that the book contains valuable lessons about the Holocaust and Christianity.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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