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Lee's Summit West High School. Photo: LSWHS.

Majority of Missourians rate public schools as only fair or poor

More than half of Missourians are not happy with the state’s public schools. Fifty-six percent rated their local schools as fair or poor, and seven in 10 said the same about public schools generally, according to a new St. Louis University/YouGov poll.

More voters surveyed also said that charter schools should be allowed in their district, and 55 percent said they should be allowed statewide. The poll occurs about every six months, weighing voters’ opinions on both politicians and the big issues at the time. Poll director Steven Rogers noted a trend in perspectives on public education since the first one conducted in the early days of the pandemic. “People have been more disapproving or rate them more poorly,” he said.

Among subgroups listed in the poll results, the highest negative ratings about local schools were from adults ages 30 to 44 and most likely to have children of school age, with 65 percent rating schools fair or poor. Black Missourians, at 73 percent; Democrats, at 63 percent; and residents of northwest Missouri, at 66 percent, also had high negative ratings for their local schools. The highest favorable ratings for local schools came from Republicans, with 48 percent rating them good or excellent, and southeast Missouri, where 46 percent said their schools are good or excellent.

The highest negative ratings about schools generally in Missouri were from young people ages 18 to 29 , recently out of the education system, at 79 percent; black Missourians, 86 percent; Democrats, 80 percent; and residents of northwest Missouri, also at 80 percent. The highest favorable ratings for schools statewide came from Republicans, with 36 percent rating them good or excellent, and southeast Missouri, where 39 percent said schools across the state are good or excellent.

Other areas covered by the poll range from teacher pay to males playing on female sports teams. As for teacher pay, 81% say teachers should be paid more. Asked if biological males who identify as female should play on girls sports, 69% oppose. Poll respondents, by 71%, say elementary schools should not discuss gender identity with children. Almost 60% oppose it in middle school. Senvety-three percent oppose gender transition treatments such as surgery and hormones to children under 18. Just 14% support it.

The findings “are completely depressing, but they are accurate,” said state Rep. Paula Brown, D-Hazelwood. “As a former teacher, I am sad that people don’t want to go into education. But look at what is happening. They aren’t paid well. And they get an egregious amount of backlash.”

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is taking steps to fill the state’s shortage by developing more advancement opportunities addressing culture and climate concerns, and even exploring different ways of organizing school leadership structures.

–Alan Goforth | Missouri

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