Many Parents Are More Concerned About Education than the Risks of COVID-19 for Their Children
Meeting Street Insights research study of more than 1,000 American families shows points of broad consensus and deep divides about education and COVID-19.
With the start of the school year looming, parents are working to decide the safest path for their children’s education. As the news reports new increases in coronavirus cases and worry about the long-term impacts of digital learning, many schools have yet to report their plans. Families are weighing the economic, educational, and health upsides and downsides of sending their kids back into school buildings or keeping them at home.
Meeting Street Insights deployed one of the widest-reaching surveys in the market related to how parents are feeling about the risks of COVID-19 for their family finances, health, and their children’s education. In many areas, parents across demographic groups answered similarly about considerations and concerns about educating their children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study uncovers where parents are reaching a consensus and where there are noticeable and even profound divides between groups.
School Shutdowns in the Spring
When schools shut down in the spring of 2020, parents spent a lot of time helping their children manage their schoolwork. Most parents (53%) spent up to three hours helping or supporting their child’s schoolwork and some (20%) spent even more (three or more hours). Only 24% of parents spent less than an hour. Regardless of the daily duration, a majority of parents (69%) report that this time spent helping children with school work made it difficult to manage other aspects of their lives.
Nonetheless, parents generally gave themselves high grades. They also reported feeling like their child’s school responded well to the COVID-19 outbreak. When asked what letter grade they would give their child’s school for the job they did handling the coronavirus outbreak this past school year, 37% said they would give their school an A and 40% said they would give it a B.
Concerns About School Outweigh Worry About Infection
One message comes through loud and clear: parents are concerned about the spread of COVID-19 at schools. Across roles, gender, school type, race, and political identity, almost all (81%) parents are concerned their child will get infected with the coronavirus while at school if schools open in the fall.
- Moms (81%) and dads (80%) have an equal level of concern about infection.
- Infection concerns are virtually the same whether a child attends public school (81%) or private school (87%).
- By race, concern rates are generally the same, with 77% of white parents, 87% of African American parents, and 87% of Hispanic parents worried about infection.
- The risk of contracting COVID-19 at schools seems to be a political unifier, with 77% of Republicans, 80% of Independents, and 85% of Democrats all reporting concern about their children becoming infected at school.
Even with such a large majority expressing infection concerns related to the school environment, more than half (51%) of all parents say they are comfortable sending their children to school in the fall. It’s in the level of comfort that we see wide variance across segments.
- Only 45% of moms are comfortable sending their children to school, compared with 59% of dads.
- In families with children in private school, most (73%) parents say they are comfortable sending their children to school, compared to only 48% of parents with children in public school.
- By race, 60% of white parents would be comfortable sending their children to school. That number drops dramatically for African American parents (38%) and Hispanic parents (38%).
- The gap widens for political differences as well, with 67% of Republicans saying they’re comfortable sending their children to school, compared to 45% of Independents and 42% of Democrats.
Only About Half of Families Know What’s Happening in the Fall
Throughout the summer, most families report that they’ve continued to focus on keeping their kids prepared for school, even without knowing exactly what that will look like. More than half (68%) have talked with their kids about their schoolwork and academic progress at least once a week. This, despite the fact that most are still waiting to hear from their schools about reopening plans and health precautions.
As of July 2020, 56% of parents said their child’s school has not shared a clear plan of action for the next school year. In addition, 42% said their child’s school hasn’t provided any information about precautions or extra steps they are taking to keep children safe and reduce the risk of illness while at school.
For more information on the financial and emotional impacts of the coronavirus on how families are navigating health, economic, and educational considerations, read Part 1 of the study, COVID-19 Has Changed Every Part of Daily Life for Parents and Kids.
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This data comes from a Meeting Street Insights national online survey of 1,000 parents conducted July 3 – July 9, 2020.