Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week, and our organization couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that it felt a little bit different this year. We are a team of almost entirely former teachers, and we’ve never seen teachers being talked about by the political class in such a negative fashion as is happening right now. It troubles us to see policymakers taking aim at teachers. But what’s even more frustrating is that voters simply do not agree. By wide margins and regardless of their political leanings, parents are expressing satisfaction with their children’s schools, teachers and what is being taught to them. Whether it be math textbooks, history lessons on race, or sex education, according to the latest polling, these issues are not top of mind for parents.
“By wide margins and regardless of their political leanings, parents are expressing satisfaction with their children’s schools, teachers, and what is being taught to them.”
Today’s political debate about the fundamental value of public education is unlike anything our country has seen. Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott floated the disturbing idea of challenging the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states are even required to provide free public education to all students. And perhaps most importantly, the culture wars are negatively affecting student learning. The political impact on education is increasingly seen in state and local elections, where school board members have faced recall attempts and lawsuits, and gubernatorial candidates are barely mentioning learning loss and instead are learning the tenets of critical race theory. But new and early research is suggesting that adult quarrels can have a negative effect on how kids learn. In a recent study of test scores conducted by political scientist Vladimir Kogan, math achievement declined, indicating the strain imposed on educators from culture war issues entering their classrooms. The impact on learning was shown to be the equivalent of multiple weeks of lost classroom time.
“New and early research is suggesting that adult quarrels can have a negative effect on how kids learn.”
With so many voters viewing education as a top priority issue, the real question we are trying to answer is: What will drive their opinions and votes? In the recent Murmuration Politics of Education Benchmark poll, two-thirds of Americans believe more needs to be done as a nation to ensure that every single child has the opportunity to receive a high-quality public education, regardless of the color of their skin or where they live.
We have found that one thing is clear: Voters want change. The 2022 election cycle has already begun, and education will be a factor that voters consider at the ballot box as they determine the nation’s path forward. The same poll found that 50 percent of Americans view that now is the time to propose big ideas and improvements to public education, compared with only 30 percent who want to get back to “normal.” This support for executing innovative reforms now spans race, gender, and age.
“At Education Opens Doors, we’ll continue to advocate for a renewed commitment to closing the opportunity gaps that exist in education.”
So, what will we in education do about it? At Education Opens Doors, we’ll continue to advocate for a renewed commitment to closing the opportunity gaps that exist in education. We’re revamping our curriculum and program with the most up-to-date research and practice around teaching and learning to better serve teachers and students. We’re focusing on putting students on a path to college and career readiness and preparing them for the workforce of the future. As education reform advocates, we can’t allow culture wars and partisan arguments to sidetrack us all from efforts to fix equity, quality and access gaps that have existed for decades and are difficult to improve. The nation must be aligned on shared education values and continue to invest in the K-12 schooling. Arguing over hot-button issues gets more public attention, which is why many in the political class enjoy doing it, but there’s actual education work that needs to be done in public schools. The future of the country’s students depends on it.
“As education reform advocates, we can’t allow culture wars and partisan arguments to sidetrack us all from efforts to fix equity, quality and access gaps.”