Strong Support, Clear Challenges
THE 2023 TEXAS EDUCATION POLL:
Strong Support, Clear Challenges
While aware of their challenges, Texans express a deep reservoir of goodwill for the state’s public schools. Parents are broadly satisfied with the quality of their child’s education and the public overwhelmingly supports increasing state funding to boost teacher pay.
Eighty-nine percent of public school parents say they are satisfied with the quality of education their child is receiving, surpassing the comparable national figure of 80 percent from an August 2022 poll.1
Support for teachers is strong, and the vast majority of Texans say their life has been positively impacted by a teacher. But the latest statewide survey on public education by the Charles Butt Foundation finds the profession under duress: Just 39 percent of Texans now say they would like to have their child take up teaching in the public schools, down 10 points in one year.
The numerous pressures on teachers are widely recognized. Three-quarters of Texans think public school teachers are undervalued or disrespected by society; 66 percent say they are overworked; and 75 percent or more think average salaries of longer-tenured teachers are too low.
Texans broadly support steps to address the pay problem. Eighty-nine percent support increasing state funding for PK–12 public schools to boost teacher salaries. The public favors a comprehensive compensation system, with years of experience, inflation, and level of education as the most preferred factors to increase pay over a teaching career.
Anxieties over school shootings are apparent in survey findings as well.2 Fifty-three percent of Texans see at least a moderate risk that public school students in their community might experience a mass shooting event at school. Also, 4 in 10 parents see at least a moderate risk to their own child.
In an open-ended question about the biggest problems facing local public schools that has been asked since the survey’s inception in 2020, concerns surrounding school safety, including the risk of gun violence, rose to the number one spot in 2023. Twenty-three percent of Texans overall—triple what it was a year ago—and 32 percent of public school parents said it is their top concern.
In response to a section of questions digging deeper into school safety and student belonging, Texas parents shared perspectives on behalf of their children. Encouragingly, 82 percent of parents express confidence in each of the four measures of student belonging surveyed—that their child can be their genuine self at school, feels supported by teachers, is encouraged to share ideas and participate in class, and has good relationships with other students.
In a troubling result, two-thirds of public school parents think there is at least a moderate risk their child might experience some form of bullying, sexual harassment, or discrimination while at school, including 30 percent who see a large risk of at least one of these happening. Among the top concerns, 53 percent of parents think their child has at least a moderate chance of experiencing cyberbullying and 48 percent say the same about physical bullying or fights.
Regarding how Texans perceive schools generally, a gap among perceptions between parents and non-parents continues, a phenomenon first reported in the 2022 Texas Education Poll report. Forty-three percent of non-parents now give their local public schools an A or B grade, compared with 64 percent of parents, a continued gap of roughly 20 points between the two groups.3 A smaller, yet significant gap also exists in ratings of Texas teachers. Seventy-six percent of parents give their community’s public school teachers an A or B grade, 16 points higher than non-parents’ ratings.
Despite the differences in how Texans grade public schools generally, there is extensive support for increasing state funding in eight areas, ranging from 95 percent for expanding career and technical training to 90 percent for assisting students with mental health needs and 82 percent for assisting students with materials needs such as clothing and school supplies. Results are bipartisan, with two-thirds or more of Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike in support of increasing state funding for each item surveyed.
On testing and accountability, public school parents are divided on whether or not the State Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests effectively measure student learning. Most non-parents, for their part, think STAAR does not accomplish that goal. When it comes to grading schools, among the one-third of Texans who are aware of accountability ratings issued to their local public schools by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), roughly 8 in 10 say those grades are at least somewhat helpful in understanding school quality.
On school vouchers, Texans, by 54–44 percent, oppose implementing a voucher program in their community if it meant reducing the amount of funds available to the local public schools. While most non-parents oppose this, parents split evenly at 49–49 percent.
In response to a hypothetical question about a scenario in which private schools were to receive state education funding, most Texans think they should be held to similar requirements as public schools, including 88 percent who believe private schools should be required to publicly report all school finances, just over 80 percent who favor requiring acceptance of students with special education needs and providing special education services, and 73 percent who favor requiring private schools to follow state curriculum guidelines.
About the Poll
The fourth annual Texas Education Poll—previously known as the Charles Butt Foundation poll—was produced for the Charles Butt Foundation by Langer Research Associates, with data collection occurring September 9–19, 2022, in English and Spanish, among a random statewide sample of 1,211 Texas adults via the Ipsos KnowledgePanel®, a probability- based online survey panel. Results have a margin of error of 3.7 points for the full sample; error margins are larger for subgroups. All differences described in this report have been tested for statistical significance.4
The 2023 Texas Education Poll was directed by Lauren Cook, senior strategist, and Jessica Enyioha, Ph.D., director of research; with Audrey Boklage, Ph.D., vice president of learning and impact. The report and user interface were designed by Joel Goudeau, art director; and multimedia designers Lauren Reed and John Jacob Moreno; with visualization support by Kurt Lockhart, data insights manager; and web development support from Karen Wang, web developer. The lead author of this report is Allison De Jong, senior research analyst at Langer Research Associates; with Christine Filer, Ph.D., senior research analyst; Steven Sparks, Ph.D., research analyst; Jared Sousa, research associate; and Gary Langer, project director.
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