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Survey reveals sinking confidence in public schools among voters

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Nadia Ramlagan

(West Virginia News Service) Five in 10 voters say their confidence in the public school system has decreased since the start of the Covid crisis and over the past year, according to a recent nationwide survey by education think tank the Hunt Institute.

According to data from the National Bureau of Economic Research, reading and math test scores in West Virginia dropped significantly during the course of the pandemic.

Bob Wise, education consultant and former West Virginia Governor, said nearly 60 percent of voters and parents strongly agree states and school districts should be using federal relief dollars to support schools.

"What our polling data shows us, is people don't want to go back just to normal in education," Wise pointed out. "They want a new normal, they weren't that happy before."

In West Virginia, programs like Sparking Early Literacy Growth are helping school districts implement new approaches to help students regain losses in reading and comprehension.

More than one million students have left public schools since the start of the pandemic, while private school enrollment went up by nearly 20 percent between 2020 and 2021.

Wise added rather than book-banning or curriculum censorship, parents want state leaders to take action to ensure their kids are taught real-world skills, are safe, and have mental health resources. 

"They're interested in personalized learning for their children, because they know that they've had a rough time over the last three years," Wise reported. "They're supporting their teachers, they're very concerned about mental health."

The survey showed nationwide, only a quarter of parents believe school district officials, state education leaders, and school board members did a good job of handling the pandemic.