Schools need additional funding to cope with pandemic crisis, voters say

Credit: Josie Norris/Los Angeles Times/PolarisFourth Grade Teacher Jacquelyn Walker instructs Tunette Powell, 34, as to the log in information as Jordan Powell, 5, listens in and Joah Powell, 9, loads up his books for the school year during the first day of school at Baldwin Hills Elementary. Credit: Josie Norris/Los Angeles Times/PolarisFourth Grade Teacher Jacquelyn Walker instructs Tunette Powell, 34, as to the log in information as Jordan Powell, 5, listens in and Joah Powell, 9, loads up his books for the school year during the first day of school at Baldwin Hills Elementary. California voters overwhelmingly say schools need additional funding to implement safety practices critical to reopening classrooms for in-person instruction, according to a just-released EdSource poll. Moreover, most think the federal government should lead the way in providing those funds, and that the money is more likely to be forthcoming if Joe Biden is president.
These are among the key findings of an EdSource representative poll of 834 registered voters conducted online between Aug. 29 and Sept. 7 by the FM3 Research polling firm.
Nearly three out of four voters in general, and a similar proportion of parents, say that that additional funding is needed, with 52% saying there is a “great need” and another 20% saying there is “some need.” Only 8% say there is “a little need,” while 11% say there is “no real need.”
Teachers and their unions have made this argument for more funding repeatedly in the face of pressures to bring students back to school for in-person instruction. The California Teachers Association recently sent Gov. Newsom a letter arguing that state government, which set the rules allowing schools to open for in-classroom instruction, has a responsibility to provide schools with what they need to do so.
“Educators and their districts don’t have the training, resources, or funding to do this work,” CTA President E. Toby Boyd along with other CTA leaders wrote in the letter. “State guidance is not enough.”
Schools also need funds for distance learning
But voters also say overwhelmingly that not only do schools need more funds for in-person instruction, they also need additional financial support in order to offer high-quality distance learning.
Additional funding for exceptional data-proven teacher development? Who couldn’t benefit from that? — Caryn Cherry, Irvine Unified
Funds should only be for teacher training in distance learning best practices. — Hiedi Wicher, parent and assistant superintendent/principal, Buttonwillow Union School District
We have teachers who are still cobbling together lessons with antiquated systems that cannot support the software or apps they need to use. I also think that there needs to be more professional development, and that costs more money. — Kristen Brown, San Jose Unified. 
Some 50% of registered voters say that schools have a “great need” while another 17% say that there is “some need” for additional funding to mount effective distance-learning programs. Only 17% say there is “no real need,” and another 6% saying there is “a little need.” These percentages mirror those of parents surveyed for the poll.
Federal government should provide more funding
One of the big issues in recent months has also been whether Congress will approve additional funds to assist schools, on top of the $13.5 billion already authorized by the CARES Act. In May, the House of Representatives approved the $3 trillion HEROES Act, which included $90 billion for education. The Senate has refused to take up the legislation, negotiations with the Trump administration are intermittent, and the prospects for additional federal funding before the November election appear slim.
On this issue, the majority of voters say the federal government should step in.
Two-thirds of voters say it is important that the federal government provide additional funds to schools and colleges to get through the pandemic. Some 66% of voters say it is “extremely important” or “very important” that Congress authorizes these funds, while 31% say it is “somewhat important” or “not important” for it to do so.
In a global pandemic, with no clear end in sight and with so many resources required of families and schools, the federal government absolutely needs to step in and provide guidance and support. In times of crisis, we rely on government and this is precisely that time. — Aditi Goel, parent, Los Altos School District. 
I worry, especially with our current president and the people who share his world view, that they’ll demand that schools open to get the funds. If that happens, I hope my school rejects the funds if it makes more sense to keep us all safer in distance learning. — Bob Capriles, parent and teacher, Fremont Union High. 
Parents are a little less likely than voters in general to place the same level of importance on additional federal funding, with “only” 59% saying it was extremely or very important.
Funding more likely of Biden is president
Very strong majorities of those polled say it is more likely that additional federal funding for schools will be forthcoming should Joe Biden be elected president in November. Nearly two-thirds of voters (63%) say it is more likely, compared with 57% of parents who said it was more likely.
These views are rooted in the reality that under a Biden presidency appeals from teachers and others for additional funding will get a far more receptive hearing. Biden is married to Jill Biden, a community college instructor and former high school teacher. He has received the endorsement of the National Education Association and most other teachers’ unions and has vowed to appoint an educator as his secretary of education.
Divided on school’s response to the pandemic
At the same time, while voters support additional funding for schools to cope with the pandemic, they are also very divided on how well they think schools have responded to the health crisis.
Some 40% of all voters, and 45% of parents say schools have done a good or excellent job. That compares with the 36% of voters overall and 43% of parents who say schools have done a fair or poor job in responding to the pandemic, both in terms of their overall operations and instruction.
The sample in the poll included 634 registered voters statewide and an additional 200 voters who are parents or guardians of a child under age 19. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is +/-3.5% at the 95% confidence level, and +/-5.7% for the parent sample. 
The poll was underwritten with support from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation the Hewlett Foundation and the Stuart Foundation.
For complete poll results, go here.
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