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Poll: Minority and low-income parents most worried about their students’ success

Lorraine Longhi, Arizona RepublicPublished 7:33 p.m. MT May 20, 2020 | Updated 7:51 a.m. MT May 21, 2020

About four in 10 Arizona parents believe the state’s management of K-12 education was good or excellent amid the coronavirus health pandemic, according to a new ASU Morrison Institute-Arizona Republic poll.

K-12 school administration received the highest positive rating of any other government entity listed, including federal, state, local and tribal.

The online survey was conducted in late April and early May. Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman ordered schools closed on March 15 to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

District, charter and private schools quickly converted to remote learning. Some provided students with printouts, while others moved to virtual lessons and emailed work. 

Impact on low-income students

The poll highlights a divide between lower-income and higher-income families when it comes to accessing the necessary technology for online learning.

Parents with children from low-income families polled were less likely to say that their children have the necessary technology for online learning.

Low-income families were also less likely to say that their children are actively engaged in online learning.

In contrast, parents of children from higher-income brackets were more concerned that their child will fall behind in school and that COVID-19 will compromise the likelihood their child will graduate high school.

Richie Taylor, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Education, said that the findings came as no surprise. He said low-income families and the schools that serve them are at more of a disadvantage when it comes to accessing technology and resources that make it easier to pivot to online learning.

“That’s why it’s so critical to provide support and resources to fill those gaps we know exist,” he said.

During the past two months, some schools got creative to help their students. A Tucson district parked buses with WiFi around the city so students could access assignments. Others reached out to nonprofits to help purchase additional laptops for students. 

State leaders asked businesses to donate hotspots and laptops to help students.

As schools tentatively prepare to reopen in the fall, Taylor said they will depend heavily on money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to fill in some of the educational gaps.

The CARES Act will allocate approximately $13.2 billion in emergency relief funds to state governments to support K-12 students whose educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus. 

“CARES Act funding ishugely important to mitigate some of the challenge we faced,” Taylor said. “We want to be able to provide for the needs of families and students.”Get the Law & Order newsletter in your inbox.

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Different ages, neighborhoods, ethnicity

The online Morrison-Republic poll was conducted from April 24 through May 7. It included 813 Arizona residents census balanced by age, gender, ethnicity, and location.

Of those, 287 were parents with at least one child living at home. The margin of error was plus or minus 6 percentage points with a 95% confidence level.

At the time of the survey, 16% of respondents indicated they would feel comfortable sending their kids back to school immediately following the lifting of restrictions.

Among the general population of parents polled:

  • 75% said their children had the necessary technology to engage in online learning.
  • 67% said their children were actively engaged in learning.
  • 57% were satisfied with the educational opportunities being offered.
  • 53% were worried that children would fall behind.
  • 43% were concerned that COVID-19 would impact their child’s ability to graduate.

Parents of older students expressed less confidence that their children were staying engaged in online learning than those of younger students.

Of the parents with at least one child in elementary school, 69% said they agreed that their children were engaged, compared to 55% of parents polled with a child in high school.

The opposite was true when parents were asked whether they were worried their child might fall behind in school.

Among parents with children in elementary school, 58%worried that their child would fall behind, compared to 46% of parents polled with a child in high school.

Black parents polled were more concerned about their children falling behind than white or Hispanic parents. Of those polled, 67% of black parents said they were worried, compared to 44% of white parents and 63% of Hispanic parents. 

Hispanic parents were the most concerned about whether COVID-19 would decrease their child’s likelihood of graduating high school. Of those polled, 49% of Hispanic parents said they were concerned, compared to 38% of black parents and 28% of white parents.

Parents who did not have a high school degree reported less concern about students falling behind as a result of the stay-at-home order when compared to parents with some college or a higher degree.

A parent’s neighborhood also impacted how individuals polled responded.

While 61% of parents who lived in an urban neighborhood indicated they were satisfied with the educational opportunities being offered by their school, only 47% of parents in suburban neighborhoods were satisfied.

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