Education Matters

Despite the very loud voices of extremist politicians who are calling for book bans and placing other controls on what Ohio's teachers can teach, it turns out that nearly all Ohio parents trust their children's teachers to provide age appropriate instruction and be good role models. Those were among the many findings of a recent survey of Ohio parents by the Children's Defense Fund - Ohio. We dig into the data.

Show Notes

Ohio Parents Trust Teachers - Season 3, Episode 2
Despite the very loud voices of extremist politicians who are calling for book bans and placing other controls on what Ohio's teachers can teach, it turns out that nearly all Ohio parents trust their children's teachers to provide age appropriate instruction and be good role models. Those were among the many findings of a recent survey of Ohio parents by the Children's Defense Fund - Ohio. We dig into the data. 
READ THE FULL REPORT & EXECUTIVE SUMMARY | "Finding Unity & Common Ground: What Ohio Parents Want for their Children’s Educations” 

MORE | Download the slide deck to present the report findings in your community


Featured Education Matters guest: 
  • Alison Paxson, Senior Policy Associate, Children's Defense Fund - Ohio
    • Alison believes every child contributes to the vibrancy and success of our communities. She is driven to ensure that every child is safe, fed, nurtured, cared for, and able to access opportunities to gain the social, economic, cultural and political capital necessary to flourish into adulthood and give back to their communities. As Policy and Communications Associate for CDF-Ohio, she uses her words and advocacy to powerfully uplift the needs of children in Ohio and elevate data-driven policy solutions to improve their livelihoods and create a more equitable and just society. Forever inspired by the 9th and 10th graders she used to work with in direct service, Alison makes it her life’s work to honor the voices and strengths of youth and ensure age never limits the right for every young person to give meaningful input in the decisions that impact their wellbeing and their communities. Alison is a graduate of The Ohio State University where she studied political science and Spanish. She grew up in Enon, Ohio – an upbringing she credits for her passion for inclusivity, equity, and public service.
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Connect with OEA:
About us:
  • The Ohio Education Association represents about 120,000 teachers, faculty members and support professionals who work in Ohio’s schools, colleges, and universities to help improve public education and the lives of Ohio’s children. OEA members provide professional services to benefit students, schools, and the public in virtually every position needed to run Ohio’s schools.
  • Education Matters host Katie Olmsted serves as Media Relations Consultant for the Ohio Education Association. She joined OEA in May, 2020, after a ten-year career as a television reporter, anchor, and producer. Katie comes from a family of educators and is passionate about telling educators' stories and advocating for Ohio's students. She lives in Central Ohio with her husband and two young children.
This episode was recorded on August 23, 2022.

What is Education Matters?

Ohio's public schools serve 1.7 million children - 90 percent of students in the state! What happens in the classroom has impacts far beyond the walls of the K-12 school building or higher ed lecture hall. So, on behalf of the 120,000+ members of the Ohio Education Association, we're taking a deeper dive into some of the many education issues facing our students, educators, and communities. Education Matters is your source for insightful conversations with the people who shape the education landscape in Ohio. Have a topic you'd like to hear about on Education Matters? Email us at educationmatters@ohea.org

Intro 0:07
This is Education Matters, brought to you by the Ohio Education Association.

Katie Olmsted 0:15
Welcome back to Education Matters with me, Katie Olmsted. I'm part of the communications team for the Ohio Education Association. And every week, on behalf of OEA's 120,000 members, it is my honor to bring you insightful conversations about the biggest issues facing Ohio's public schools. It feels like for the last year, at least one of those big issues has been so-called 'divisive concepts' - that manufactured controversy around teaching critical race theory in K-12 schools. Spoiler alert, no one is doing that. Or teachers grooming or indoctrinating students or whatever other made up nonsense out of state extremists are trying to push around in Ohio to hijack the political narrative and drive a wedge between parents and educators. As we all know, parents and educators are actually on the same side. And now we know nearly all Ohio parents trust their children's teachers to do the jobs they were trained to do. Those are the findings of a survey by Baldwin Wallace University's Community Research Institute for the Children's Defense Fund of Ohio. And as CDF-Ohio Senior Policy Associate Alison Paxson tells us, the findings make it abundantly clear that regardless of race, gender, income, religion, or even political affiliation, Ohio parents and caregivers overwhelmingly support the whole child priorities in education like school nutrition, mental health, and social emotional learning. And they want to be good partners with teachers to set their children up for success. Take a listen.

Katie Olmsted 2:05
Alison, thank you so much for sitting down with us. Looking at this report, it is very comprehensive, so many questions asked of so many parents around Ohio. But what is the biggest takeaway you want people to have from this?

Alison Paxson 2:20
I think that's a great question. I would say the biggest takeaway that I have is that, you know, we fought out to do this survey, to really better understand a lot of the conflicting messages that we were hearing throughout Ohio, to understand what was truly representative of what parents want for their children, specifically around schools prioritizing whole child wellbeing by teaching social emotional learning, in terms of other programs that they do to support students beyond solely academics, whether that's mental behavioral health, school nutrition, and other aspects of how they they drive their policies towards promoting more equity in their schools. And so I'd say the biggest takeaway that I have is that, overwhelmingly, we see that a lot of the opposition we're seeing throughout the state of Ohio, is it's not really coming so much from parents and from parents who actually have school aged children and our K-12 schools. Overwhelmingly, we find that parents believe in the partnerships that they have with their schools and with their educators. And they trust their educators to support their children and their academic learning, and in their best interest as a really great role model for their children and their future success.

Katie Olmsted 3:43
Yeah, I want to talk about some of those numbers. I have the report right here. It says nine in 10 parents say they see their child's teacher as a positive role model. 93% say they trust their child's teacher to teach their child age appropriate content. 92% say they trust their child's teacher to support their academic learning and success. 89% say they trust their child's teacher to have high expectations of their child. And 87% say they trust their child's teacher to discipline fairly. Knowing where we are in the state of Ohio, knowing all of the manufactured controversy around you know, parents saying that - quote unquote, parents because we know it's not actually parents, - 'teachers stop indoctrinating our children!' Did it surprise you to see these overwhelming numbers support teachers like this?

Alison Paxson 4:39
We didn't know what results we would receive. We were really just trying to craft the least biased survey that we could, you know, really design in order to get an accurate view. But that being said, I was both, you know, surprised to see the overwhelming numbers that nine and 10 parents trust their parents are nine And parents trust their teachers in all of these different categories, you know, but I'm also not very surprised at all, because I think that there is a solid recognition. And it's abundantly clear from this data that there's unity among parents that they recognize just how resilient teachers have been throughout this time, they recognize the impact of teacher student relationships and the importance of their teachers treating their children as humans first and then, you know, students second as they come into the classroom. And so, yes, a little surprised at the amount, but in the long, just given our long history, in terms of our education here in Ohio, and how strong our teachers have been, you know, and how solid that trust has been between schools and communities, I'd say over overwhelmingly kind of underwhelmed.

Katie Olmsted 5:58
I love that you put it that way. One of the things that I also really, again, I wasn't surprised by it, because it was the sense I had, but it's so nice to see it validated in the data, that this is across the political lines that parents are feeling this way. Can you speak a little bit to who you actually ask these questions to?

Alison Paxson 6:21
Yes, absolutely. And so we conducted this survey, and the last three weeks of May of this year, just following our primaries, and we thought that tension would be probably at its highest. And we surveyed over 1300 parents, you know, of course, with school aged children in K through 12. And among those demographics, we had 84% of parents who are registered voters. And then in this case of this survey, slightly more Republicans, who are self-identified Republicans who responded to the survey. And, and even then, you know, despite what we're hearing from, kind of, you know, more Republican leaning groups about their stances on these issues, the support was really overwhelming for for teachers and what they're doing every day.

Katie Olmsted 7:14
Was there a political divide on some of the other questions you asked? I know this, the survey covered a lot of ground.

Alison Paxson 7:21
If any, it was very slight, I would say so we crafted a survey to first ask parents say about what life skills they want their children to learn, understanding that these life skills like responsible decision making social awareness, you know, self awareness, all of these life skills that underpin social-emotional learning, we asked parents about these skills first, without using the term social-emotional learning, because it's become so politicized. And we didn't want to skew the parents responses that way. Overwhelming support in all categories that we asked in terms of this concrete skills. But then when we did later ask parents about social-emotional learning, specifically, and what are they support it being taught in their schools, we did see a slight divide in political affiliation with more Republican leaning parents, their support diminishing, but it was really still very slight. And so that's an area I would point to where it's not about, I would say, parents support or lack of support for for social-emotional learning itself, or for the skills that are part of it. But just a lack of understanding for what that specific kind of educational jargony word means. And so it is really important for us to be explicit as we can when we're talking with parents about what we mean by social emotional learning, and what skills it imparts to our students.

Katie Olmsted 8:52
And if I recall correctly from looking at the report, there seems to be a lot of parents who just don't know what social emotional learning is. Do you think this is a call a wake up call that there needs to be a little bit of an education campaign around just that term?

Alison Paxson 9:09
Absolutely. We did see. So there was definitely a correlation where those who had less familiarity with a term were less likely to support it. And so I think that and we asked open ended questions for social emotional learning also, that even showed that while parents may have said they don't support social emotional learning in schools, they're open ended questions showed that what they want is actually social emotional learning. So I think what's really key for us is to make sure that we're educating parents and raising awareness and being as explicit as possible whenever we use the word and thinking about, you know, the real life skills that it equips students with and sets them up for future success.

Katie Olmsted 9:56
Another part of the survey is looking at mental health in schools. What did you find from that?

Alison Paxson 10:02
Yes, the we found that parents really consider mental health to be an issue of concern for for their children and children and their school community. And that, specifically, parents really want mental health to be greater prioritized in schools. Whether that is through providing more on site providers in schools where children can readily access them, but also, you know, more funding towards, you know, mental health in schools and school based health care.

Katie Olmsted 10:39
And it seems like there's support for more funding for school nutrition programs as well, really, across the board, parents were saying we support taking care of the whole child, which is what the whole thing was looking at. Right?

Alison Paxson 10:53
Yeah, absolutely. You know, we saw from the survey data that nearly half of all parents reported that their students accessed a school meal five days a week. And this, you know, especially was important throughout the pandemic, you know, as families were struggling with the impact financially of the COVID crisis. And, you know, we saw a response where the school meals were free for parents in the last two years. And we're seeing from the survey results, that parents really do want continued prioritization of free school meals for all students, and they, about 80, 85% said that they really believe that free school meals should be available for all students regardless of their ability to pay.

Katie Olmsted 11:46
I mean, that honestly did surprise me a little bit, I just in all of the debates that we have across our society about, quote, unquote, entitlement programs or anything like that, I have felt that there was a larger proportion of people who may not support something like that, but just see that overwhelming majority again, wanting to take care of the whole child. To me, that was pretty heartening.

Alison Paxson 12:14
Absolutely, and I just have so much hope and understanding from the data that, you know, parents really recognize that schools and families should be working together to strengthen the supports that children are receiving, you know, that both at home and in school, you know, rather than countering those supports, and I think the school nutrition piece is particularly important and considering how, you know, parents recognize, you know, more and more that these are all of our children, and that removing those pieces of red tape that make it more difficult for children to access, you know, school nutrition and school meals, is actually something that benefits all of us. And thinking about our collective well being and the collective well being of our children.

Katie Olmsted 12:56
One of the things I found particularly important from this survey, was the emphasis from parents in their responses on being partners in their children's education. I know, every educator I've ever spoken to welcomes a constructive partnership with parents and caregivers to make sure that children are getting set up for success at home and at school. Seeing that play out in the data, I think really reaffirms that it is that two sided commitment, despite what wedge is trying to be driven into our communities by some of those outside actors, who, as you point out, are not parents, and I'm adding it wasn't in the survey are really just acting to to cause problems, to be honest, acting for their own political gain. What would you like to see moving forward in terms of the importance of this data?

Alison Paxson 13:54
I would say that I'd like to see moving forward, a better reliance on on facts and on truth. And on an understanding that was very well communicated through this survey that no matter who we are parents, school administrators, educators, business leaders, you know, public officials, and faith leaders, we really do all have a role to play in the future well being of our children in our community communities. And that, you know, we take this, you know, collective responsibility of this being a community wide effort to enable every child to have opportunities that they need to thrive. And we enact that and our policies and in how we make our funding decisions. We never lose sight of our children being at the center of what should be our rationale for making decisions that we do at all levels of government.

Katie Olmsted 14:51
And I appreciate that you brought that up. I think it's important that we also point out what the Children's Defense Fund Ohio is. Can you tell me a little bit about your organization and all So what prompted you to look into this data and to commission the survey?

Alison Paxson 15:06
Absolutely. So the Children's Defense Fund is a national nonprofit organization. We were born out of the civil rights movement through the leadership of Marian Wright Edelman, who really saw the need for a, you know, a voice in the halls of power for children, specifically. And so as an organization here in Ohio, we've been advocating on behalf of children's for the last 40 years. And we specifically champion policies that lift children out of poverty, that protect them from abuse and neglect, that help ensure every child has access to quality and targeted health care, education, nutrition, and overall whole child well being and wellness. You know, just really understanding that children really don't come in pieces, we can't, you know, truly, you know, fully fund a child's access to housing or nutrition without also looking at all spokes of their well being. And making sure that all areas where children's basic needs must be met. You know, those are essential in ensuring that a child thrives and is able to realize their true potential and define their own success in whatever way they might define it.

Katie Olmsted 16:22
Knowing what your organization stands for, what has it been like for you guys watching some of these bills making their way through the State House, the ones that are the 'don't say gay' and the 'don't say race' bills, House Bill 327 and House Bill 616? Obviously, it's something that's very important in the educational community, but it sounds like it's something very important to you as well,

Alison Paxson 16:46
absolutely, because these bills hinge on problems that don't exist, these crises have been manufactured by, you know, very coordinated political attacks that don't, are not anchored in the best interest of children. And, you know, even from like our survey, we see that parents really want a prioritization on, you know, the real issues that are facing children and their ability to thrive. And we, you know, even see more support, I would say, than opposition among Ohio parents in some of our open ended questions. And we asked them about, you know, teaching issues related to race and racism are those around gender identity and sexual orientation. You know, they're - across all of these open ended questions, there were relatively few respondents who were actually greatly concerned about or outright opposed to the teaching of these subjects. And so this data just really goes to show how manufactured these crises are, and demonstrates that this fear over, you know, dog whistles and, you know, catch-all term for these cultural anxieties are, and just really shows us not truly coming from parents who actually have children in our schools. And, you know, these so called divisive issues that have, you know, taken up so much time and so much resources, among parents really don't appear to be all that divisive at all.

Katie Olmsted 18:09
And they're distracting from, as you've pointed out, the real issues facing our kids. And now we have the data to back it up, proving what those real issues really are. Thank you so, so much for taking the time to help break this down for me.

Alison Paxson 18:24
Thank you. It's been a pleasure to be here.

Katie Olmsted 18:28
So what do we do with these survey results? Obviously, it's important that Ohio's educators know they have parents' support, so please tell your colleagues about this data. But we also have to make sure policymakers at the state and local levels have this information, too. We have the link to the full CDF-Ohio report in the show notes for this episode. And there's also a link to a PowerPoint template with the data you can use to present at your local school board meeting or in conversations with your state lawmakers. As we know, the decisions our lawmakers make in Columbus can have a huge impact on educators around the state every day. In fact, next week here on Education Matters. We'll hear from one teacher who says a new law passed by the General Assembly earlier this year drove her out of the profession. We want to hear from you too. You can share your thoughts on the podcast or ideas for future episodes by emailing me at educationmatters@ohea.org or join the conversation with the Ohio Education Association on social media. We're @OhioEA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Until next time, stay well.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai