Hunt Institute report buries the lede
Survey results show vast majority believe parental involvement is key
The Hunt Institute has issued a new report on the state of North Carolina’s public education system and the priorities of that system coming out of the pandemic.
The big takeaway - parental involvement -didn’t make the list of key findings. We’ll take a look at that shortly, first, here’s a bit about the report itself.
The 2022 report is titled Across the Aisle: Bridging the Education Divide and is subtitled, “What Voters and Parents Want in Education.”
The report was co-authored by the Hunt Institute’s President and CEO Dr. Javaid Siddiqi, and former West Virginia governor and member of the U.S. House of Rep. Bob Wise.
2022’s Across the Aisle report appears to be a follow-up to questions about education priorities posed by the 2021 publication titled, “The COVID Constituency: Emerging Priorities for Education Leaders.”
“America’s ever-changing educational landscape inspired The Hunt Institute to explore whether parent and voter priorities had shifted since our last report was published,” a news post on the Hunt Institute website states about the Across the Aisle report (ATA).
The post goes on to say ATA was created in partnership with Lake Research Partners and includes an “updated nationwide survey of parents and voters to hear their concerns, gauge their priorities, and establish a path forward for transforming our education system for the better.”
Key findings from the report include:
Voters nationwide are losing confidence in our public school system
Recent hot-button issues such as book banning and censoring curriculum have dominated media headlines but are largely unpopular
Voters believe that students need more than just a foundation in core subjects and that our schools need to be teaching real-world skills for the future workforce
School safety in particular is a high priority issue in the eyes of voters and parents
Voters look to additional mental health support as a necessary part of recovery efforts
One year later, learning loss remains a high priority issue for parents and voters, with special attention paid to literacy
Looking a little closer at these findings, when it comes to losing confidence in public education, the pandemic opened the eyes of many parents as to what their child was learning or being exposed to. Or, in some cases, what they were not learning.
So what kind of number or percentage are we talking about?
The ATA’s finding showed half of the voters in its survey have lost confidence in public education, stating that “Nearly 5 in 10 voters say their confidence in the public school system has decreased since the start of the pandemic (48 percent) and over the past year (47 percent).
These findings are noted as being in line with other polling on the issue.
On the same topic, the results showed “only about a quarter of parents” believe education officials handled the impacts of COVID very well. The breakdown included school district officials (26 percent), state education leaders (26 percent), and school board members (24 percent).
In that same vein, 61 percent of voters and 62 percent of parents apparently said they “strongly agree” that for public education to succeed, schools need to go “beyond teaching just the basics” to kids. And by going beyond, ATA is pointing at the teaching of more “real-world skills.”
School safety has surpassed other topics like school choice and testing concerns with 75 percent of voters believing guns and other physical violence in schools is a problem. 73 percent believe bullying/cyberbullying is a problem.
It’s worth noting ATA does include data on why parents were pulling their kids out of public schools. The top three responses were higher quality education (44 percent), better classroom environment (12 percent), and specialty school/more ideal curriculum (11 percent). The fourth item was school safety at 10 percent including issues “such as gun violence.”
Below are the top priorities in the report, how big or small a problem those topics may be, and where the responses fell. A drilled-down list follows this graph on page six of ATA.
The topic of learning loss was and still is a top issue for voters; 40 percent of voters said it was a big problem and 70 percent overall cited it as a current problem.
More individualized and tailored learning was supported by a plurality to address learning gaps caused by the pandemic.
Hunt Institute buries the lede
Interestingly the Hunt Institute leaves off what is arguably the biggest finding from its blog post on laying out its findings: Parental involvement.
The additional findings slides provided as a supplement to ATA include a question on parental involvement.
“A strong majority of voters say parents should be included in their child’s education and what they are taught and parents agree at even higher numbers. This is a core value across partisan lines.”
How strong of a majority? 89 percent of parents and 84 percent of voters.
The need for parental input and that parents “know their children best” is always referred to by school officials or school boards or reports like ATA, but COVID taught many parents that while they are being heard, parents are not being listened to. It’s this kind of lip service that is one of the underlying causes of the erosion of trust in public education.
N.C.’s State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, a parent herself, sees parents as a key source of information and has instituted the state’s first-ever Parent Advisory Commission.
The ATA report refers to “book banning,” which is not really a true or fully representative characterization of what is going on with regard to requests by parents for removal or limited access to controversial books.
The books being complained about often contain questionable ideological, political, or sexual content. And we are not just talking about sex being mentioned, many of the books contain very graphic details, including rape, that is not appropriate for a school library. There has been a high degree of hypocrisy on this issue by school boards who defend keeping these types of books yet toss parents out of board meetings when they try to read passages from them.
Having said all of that, ATA’s findings showed that 68 percent of voters and 60 percent of parents “believe book banning and curriculum censorship is a problem.”
MORE TO THE STORY
The Hunt Institute was established in 2001 by former Democratic N.C. Governor Jim Hunt. Hunt, who was, and still is, known as the “education governor.”
The organization has become an education policy-influencing behemoth in North Carolina and beyond.
The Hunt Institute’s website states “Equity is the lens through which we view all of our work, and we will be satisfied with nothing less than a quality education for every child, preparing them for citizenship, college, and the workforce. To that end, we are building on a solid nonpartisan foundation to reach more governors, legislators, and other education leaders.”
Influence Watch, the nonprofit watchdog group gun by the Capitol Research Center, describes the Hunt Institute as a “left-of-center education advocacy center.”
Influence correctly notes the Hunt Institute, with funding from Bill Gates, was the “driving force” behind the promotion and adoption of the flawed Common Core Standards.
“Since 2002, the Hunt Institute has received at least $17,604,929 from the left-of-center Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, including a 2009 grant of $5,549,352 in support nationwide advocacy for federal government-directed Common Core education standards.”
Common Core became the basis of the NC Standard Course of Study under the tenure of former State Superintendent June Atkinson.
The Hunt Institute is a very well-funded 501(c)3. 2020 tax filings show receipts of $6,019,050 and $7,201,896 in the initial filing for 2021.
The institute boasts a long list of supporters and partners. Topping the list are the Bezos Family Foundation, the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation, the John Belk Endowment, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and the Walton Family Foundation.
Other notable names include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The College Board, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, the left-leaning Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, and the New Venture Fund - one of the arms of the dark money group Arabella Advisors.
More to the Story by A.P. Dillon is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.