Sarah Courtney / EdSource
Colton Reichow (right) eats lunch while social distancing during the first day of a hybrid schedule at Lucerne Valley Elementary in San Bernardino County.

Most California voters want schools to require safeguards like face masks, proper ventilation and social distancing in classrooms, and Covid-19 testing and tracing before schools return for in-person instruction, according to poll released Thursday by the California Teachers Association.

Sixty percent of those polled said these safeguards and access to a nurse, daily health screenings, smaller class sizes and continued distance learning for students and teachers with medical conditions are all essential to reopening schools. The poll found that 85% of California voters surveyed expect school districts to make “major changes” to prevent the spread of the virus.

The online poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates between Sept. 18 and Sept. 25, asked 1,295 registered voters, including 527 parents, to answer questions about how and when California schools should reopen. Researchers polled a sample of California voters who matched the demographics of California voters overall, said Geoff Garin, president of Hart Research Associates.

Researchers found that 62% of voters would not be comfortable sending their children to school at this time.

Most voters, 63%, support the state’s four-tiered system that allows counties to reopen schools if infection rates in the community are low. Four out of 10 said that schools should not reopen without a vaccine, although most would make an exception for small group instruction for special needs students, according to a summary of the findings.

“It makes only common sense that we look at the science, and we take care of our students and our teachers,” said E. Toby Boyd, president of the California Teachers Association during a press conference Thursday. “Before we open schools, we can’t do it unless we are safe. And that has been what we’ve been saying. And the research has showed us that we have been on the right track.”

The findings of the poll support the position of the California Teachers Association, which outlined its concerns about reopening campuses in a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins on Sept. 16.

Among the union’s primary concerns is a lack of Covid-19 testing and tracing in schools. The letter called on the state to put a system of testing and tracing in place for students and staff. A state plan to test 100,000 people a day beginning Nov. 1 will be too late for schools in 25 counties eligible to reopen schools now, the letter says.

Schools should be prepared for outbreaks of Covid-19 and have plans in place to test students and staff, and to trace infections, said Robert Harrison, a professor at the UC San Francisco and a specialist in occupational medicine.

“It is clear from both a workplace and a community perspective that keeping teachers and staff safe from Covid-19 in schools will also help keep our students and their families safe as well,” Harrison said during Thursday’s press conference.

California voters are not optimistic about the next year when it comes to the spread of the coronavirus. Nearly 80% of the voters contacted for the poll consider the spread of the virus to be a serious problem in the state. More than half of the voters polled said that they expect that the worse is yet to come in terms of the spread of the virus.

More than half of those polled felt that the health and safety of students, staff and their families should be considered first when deciding when and how to reopen a school campus. A fifth felt that avoiding community spread of the virus should be the most important factor to consider.

An EdSource poll released last week found that nearly three-quarters of voters surveyed say schools need additional funding to implement safety practices vital to reopening school campuses. The California Teachers Association poll found that 80% of voters believe more funding is needed.

“We are facing a $12.5 billion deficit next year,” said Boyd in reference to California K-12 schools and community colleges. “That’s insurmountable. And it’s nothing like I’ve ever seen in my 26 years of teaching. It is bigger than what happened in 2008.”

EdSource's trusted, in-depth reporting has never mattered more.

With the coronavirus affecting every aspect of California's education, demand for EdSource's reporting has increased tremendously.

We can meet this demand, with help from readers like you.

From now through December 31, NewsMatch will match your one-time gift or your new monthly donation for 12 months.

Your contribution ensures that EdSource’s content continues to be available for free – without a paywall or ads.

Make your donation today to DOUBLE your impact.

Share Article

Comments (5)

Leave a Reply to Seth

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * *

Comments Policy

We welcome your comments. All comments are moderated for civility, relevance and other considerations. Click here for EdSource's Comments Policy.

  1. Jacques Corriveau, MD 2 months ago2 months ago

    Why didn’t Hart and CTA publish the public opinion data about Elementary reopening? “Opinions are divided” sounds like they didn’t like the number, so chose not to publish it.

    Replies

  2. Adam Hampton 2 months ago2 months ago

    A quick google search on Hart Research Associates (the polling company) shows a national firm based In Washington D.C. with 49 years of experience with no apparent political affiliation. I would lean toward trusting this poll over any district's Google Form, self-created Qualtrics, or the ever-present SurveyMonkey - any day of the week. These are simple local surveys, not scientific polls. There is a qualitative difference. I do agree with the "why bother" portion … Read More

    A quick google search on Hart Research Associates (the polling company) shows a national firm based In Washington D.C. with 49 years of experience with no apparent political affiliation. I would lean toward trusting this poll over any district’s Google Form, self-created Qualtrics, or the ever-present SurveyMonkey – any day of the week. These are simple local surveys, not scientific polls. There is a qualitative difference.

    I do agree with the “why bother” portion you mention (except that it does help politically) in that LA County is still in the Purple (widespread risk of contraction level) tier. Other counties have struggled to move forward under their Red (substantial risk of contraction level) tier designation. These risk levels should make a return to school non-negotiable if safety is your number one priority.

    In local negotiations, health and safety needs should be met first. If this polling helps drive recalcitrant administrations toward doing the right thing (health and safety first), then it’s worth its weight in human health.

    Replies

    • Seth 2 months ago2 months ago

      We may disagree on what is considered safe and what not. I trust the public health experts on the subject more so than a local school district. Irrespective, surveys sent to parents asking them if they are willing to start sending their children to school next month, seems like a far better indication of voter sentiment as that is the most pure form of a-political response one can hope to get (I mean, they will actually … Read More

      We may disagree on what is considered safe and what not. I trust the public health experts on the subject more so than a local school district.

      Irrespective, surveys sent to parents asking them if they are willing to start sending their children to school next month, seems like a far better indication of voter sentiment as that is the most pure form of a-political response one can hope to get (I mean, they will actually need to physically bring their kids to school if they say yes). I don’t see why the platform being used or the proficiency of the survey author would make a difference.

  3. Seth 2 months ago2 months ago

    So a poll constructed and paid for by the CTA gave the results the CTA wanted? Interesting. Also, the results don’t match virtually any of the real surveys already conducted in many school districts allowed to reopen. Just look at the board docs of any district and you will see around 20% of parents wish to remain virtual as opposed to the 41% shown in this poll. And why even bother with a poll when parents' responses … Read More

    So a poll constructed and paid for by the CTA gave the results the CTA wanted? Interesting.

    Also, the results don’t match virtually any of the real surveys already conducted in many school districts allowed to reopen.

    Just look at the board docs of any district and you will see around 20% of parents wish to remain virtual as opposed to the 41% shown in this poll. And why even bother with a poll when parents’ responses to school board surveys are much more accurate.

    This poll is clearly meant as a political tool to apply leverage on the state and school boards for negotiations with the teachers union, and I would expect a credible publication like EdSource to at least point out the possibility.