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(KTXL) — The Public Policy Institute of California released the results of its recent statewide survey, showing a majority of Californians are worried about the state’s students.

According to the poll, more than eight in 10 believe students are falling behind academically. But a majority also view the governor’s efforts with the K-12 system favorably.

Newsom’s push to reopen California schools, parents concerned for the fall

Governor Gavin Newsom has repeated the need for school reopenings, saying his administration has an “expectation” that students will be returning to the classroom by the time the new school year rolls around.

Newsom and the State Legislature recently passed a $6 billion incentive plan to get schools to reopen for in-person instruction.

“There will be no barrier to having our kids back in in-person instruction,” the governor said. “That is our expectation.”

Among all adults, 53% think schools should be partially opened, and 28% think they should open fully. Those numbers drop among public school parents to 48% and 27%, respectively.

Meanwhile, six in 10 parents showed concern that California’s schools will not be open for full-time in-person learning this fall, with 24% saying they were very concerned, and 37% reporting they were somewhat concerned.

When asked about fall reopenings, two out of three public school parents expressed concerns, with 25% very concerned and 41% somewhat concerned.

At least two in 10 people across all ethnic/racial groups are concerned that schools will not be open for full in-person learning this fall, with 25% of Asian Americans, 25% of Latinos, 24% of whites and 21% of African Americans expressing concerns.

However, California’s parents expressed their approval of Newsom’s efforts, with the majority of those surveyed in April saying they agree with how he has handled the public school system and school reopenings, according to the PPIC.

The PPIC found 64% of public school parents and 57% of all adults view the governor’s effort in a favorable light. That approval rating was nearly the same when respondents were asked how they thought the governor was doing with reopening schools. 

While his approval rating was higher near the start of the pandemic — with 78% of parents and 73% of adults showing approval in April 2020 — the numbers just about mirrored those reported by the PPIC back in April 2019.

That approval comes despite California lagging behind in getting students back into the classroom and Newsom facing an impending recall

The majority of Democrats also approved of the governor’s handling of the public school system (79%) and reopening process (76%), while Republicans showed their disapproval (22% and 24% respectively).

But among Central Valley respondents, Newsom faces a lower approval rating of 46%, with 50% saying they disapprove of the recent work he’s done for public schools. Some local school district officials, teachers and parent groups have been at odds over plans to return to the classroom, even as students slowly get back into in-person learning after more than a year of learning from home.

Students may be falling behind academically

Despite most approving of Newsom’s handling of the state’s K-12 system, eight in 10 Californians believe children are falling behind academically. 

The PPIC poll found 60% of public school parents think children are falling behind a lot, while 23% say a little. 

Just as many Californians were concerned that students in lower-income areas have been more likely to fall behind. 

Although, they were more evenly split on how concerned they were about the issue. 

The poll found eight in 10 Californians were concerned about it, with 42% of public school parents very concerned and 45% somewhat concerned. 

Levels of concern stayed steady among certain groups, with 50% of Asian Americans, 49% of African Americans and 46% of Latinos saying they were very concerned. According to the PPIC, the number of white people very concerned was slightly lower, with 35% of whites saying very. 

The PPIC poll found that when it comes to English-language learners, fewer people are very concerned about them being more likely to fall behind. 

The number of Californians worried about the issue remains the same, eight in 10. But only 37% of African Americans, 37% of Latinos and 35% of Asian Americans say they are very concerned about it. That number drops slightly more among whites, with 26% of them very concerned. 

Public school funding

According to the poll, only about half of respondents think California public schools were adequately funded with 51% of Californians saying the current level of funding does meet the need.

Yet when looking at responses broken down by political affiliation, Democrats (60%) are more likely to feel schools are not adequately funded compared to 45% of independents and 34% of Republicans.

But the view that public school funding is lacking stays consistent at 50/50 when the question is broken up by racial/ethnic groups.

The perception of lack of funding is further supported by the 74% of public-school parents who say they would vote yes on a state bond measure to pay for school construction projects, of which 55% of California adults would also support.

For context nationwide, California ranked 23rd out of the 50 states in spending for public K-12 education per student based on average daily attendance, according to the National Education Association’s 2020 Ranking and Estimates report.

This might be the reason why just over four out of 10 parents (42%) who responded to the poll say they would send their youngest child to private school if cost and location were not an issue, a trend that has increased since 2018 when only 31% of parents would choose a private school, and in 2019 when only 35% parents say they would.

Parents grade schools on closures, themselves on distance learning

Most adults gave districts passing grades when it came to their handling of closures. Sixty-five percent of adults and 72% of public school parents approved as of April 2021. Approval among parents was 92% a year ago, in the early days of the pandemic.

Fifteen percent of public school parents also said they were very satisfied with their ability to give their kids a productive distance learning environment, while 48% said they were somewhat satisfied.

When asked to give their local public schools a letter grade, 41% of adults and 50% of public school parents gave them an A or a B.

African American parents were the least likely to give an A or B at 29%. Among Asian American and white parents, 42% said they would give an A or B, along with 43% of Latino parents.

Forty-two percent of parents polled said they would send their youngest child to a private school if they could afford it and location was not an issue. Meanwhile, 31% of parents said they would choose public schools, 14% said charter schools and 13% said religious schools.