It would be nice if state legislators read the results of a recent survey of Hoosier parents conducted for the Indiana Department of Education. It would be even better if they took them to heart.
If they did read the results, here’s what they would learn:
- Indiana parents are happy with their children’s schools. A remarkable 88% said they were satisfied with the quality of their child’s school. Figures were even higher for some groups: 90% for parents of elementary children and 96% in rural areas and small towns.
- Parents know what schools are teaching and support it: 81% say they know what their children are learning in school, and 78% say they agree with it.
- Those who disagree with what schools are teaching are a tiny minority of parents. Only 7% don’t approve of what the schools teach, and two-thirds of those admit they don’t know what that is. In other words, “I don’t know what they’re teaching but, whatever it is, I don’t like it.”
Yet a tiny and uninformed minority – much of it unconnected to schools — seems to have the ear of Republicans, who keep pushing legislation to restrict what schools can teach about race, gender, sexuality and other made-up controversies. They’ve also promoted “curriculum transparency” bills, apparently in the idea that schools are keeping parents in the dark.
The survey, conducted last fall by the Gallup organization, included over 3,000 parents of students in public, charter, private and home schools. About 90% of Indiana students attend public schools.
Given the survey’s results, it is remarkable how much attention the noisy minority of school critics has generated with its claims that children are being indoctrinated in “critical race theory” and “groomed” by teachers into confusion about their sexuality and gender identity.
As Scott Bess, a State Board of Education member and executive director of Purdue Polytechnic charter schools in Indianapolis, told WFYI News, “That very, very small percentage – that 2% — is very loud, very organized. And they get a lot of air play.”
The survey findings run counter to the narrative that unsatisfied parents are demanding more options and more school choice. Parent satisfaction was highest, at 96%, in the rural areas and small towns where there are often few alternatives to the local public school district.
The survey also delves into attitudes about higher education. Most parents say postsecondary education is available in Indiana, but only 27% say it’s affordable. They aren’t wrong. The legislature has failed to keep pace in funding colleges and universities, and costs have shifted to student tuition and fees.
It’s also concerning, if not surprising, that only 64% of parents of middle-school students are aware of Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars program, which provides college funding for qualifying students. That suggests Gov. Eric Holcomb’s proposal to automatically enroll eligible students in the program is a good idea. Legislators seem receptive to the plan, but they may balk at the cost.