by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
RALEIGH – After living for months under Gov. Roy Cooper’s restrictive rules that have forced most North Carolina public school kids out of the classroom and into online learning, many North Carolina voters aren’t happy with the governor’s handling of school reopenings during COVID-19. A new Civitas Poll released Thursday shows 46% of likely registered voters give the governor a thumbs-down on the issue, with only 39% giving a thumbs-up.
Disapproval is strongest among Hispanics, 59% of whom expressed their concern over the governor’s handling of school shutdowns. A plurality of Unaffiliated and Republican voters, as well as those living in rural North Carolina, also disapproved of Gov. Cooper’s actions.
Voters showed a similar disapproval with their local school district’s handling of reopenings in light of COVID-19, with 45% saying they either strongly or somewhat disapprove. Approval of local district actions sat at just 34%, five points lower than the governor. Nearly seven in 10 believe instructional changes made in response to the pandemic have had a negative impact on student learning.
“While Gov. Roy Cooper has had high approval ratings over the past four years, voters are running out of patience with his handling of reopening schools,” said Donald Bryson, president of the John Locke Foundation. “Voters, especially parents, feel that families should have a greater say in their child’s educational environment, and COVID-19 has emphasized how out of touch the Cooper administration is on this issue.”
Voters were also asked their view of the role a parent should play in choosing where their child attends school. The overwhelming majority – 82% – agree that parents should have that ability. The findings come during National School Choice Week. Only 32% of respondents said they would choose a traditional public school for their child if location and cost were not a factor, and just 7.5% gave their local public school an “A” grade.
With location and cost not a factor, two out of three respondents (65%) chose an alternative learning environment for their child: private religious or parochial school (23%), private non-religious school (20%), charter school (14%), and homeschool (8%). Even more – 72% – favor education savings accounts in K-12 education. ESAs create a savings account using government funds for parents with restricted uses for educational purposes.
Bryson continued, “Fortunately, North Carolina has created an educational environment, particularly over the past 10 years, that allows families to access other educational options. Now we are seeing families move into schools of choice in numbers we’ve never seen before.”
Methodology: The survey was conducted January 20-24, 2021 by Harper Polling, a Cygnal company. It surveyed 950 likely registered voters in North Carolina and has a margin of error of +/-3.18. Known registered voters were interviewed via IVR, SMS, and email invitation. This survey was weighted to likely registered voter universe. Total percentages of responses may not equal 100% due to rounding.