By Suzie Glassman/NewsBreak Denver
(Castle Rock, CO) As students prepare for a new school year with pandemic-era policies in the review mirror, a new Magellan poll shows DougCo voters believe public schools are on the wrong track but for very different reasons.
When asked to describe why they felt public schools in their area were on the wrong track, Democrats in Douglas County expressed dissatisfaction with the school board and the district's inability to implement the equity plan approved last year.
One Democratic voter said, "The school board is dysfunctional. Teachers are not trusted and have no voice. Certain administrators do not back the staff on matters related to health, safety, and security."
Another voter said, "Lack of diversity/equity plan for staff and students. The inability of the board to follow the law. Emphasis on charter/private schools."
Republican voters expressed dissatisfaction over public school curricula and believe teachers are teaching critical race theory (CRT) to students. According to Education Weekly, “the core idea (of CRT) is that race is a social construct and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.
“Critical race theory isn’t taught in Douglas County schools,” superintendent Erin Kane said in an interview. Yet, Republican voters responding to the question believe it is.
"We need to get liberal policies out of Colorado schools," said one Republican voter. Another said, "They are not focusing on the basics of education but are getting caught up in 'wokeness,' CRT that is adversely affecting our children."
The poll shows how divided the two parties are regarding the DougCo school board and what kids learn in the classroom.
As the district sets forth a plan to ask voters to approve a property tax increase in November, it's unclear if the community can put aside their differences and vote yes.
According to the poll, voters statewide said they were more likely (57% to 37%) to vote for a tax increase that went to teacher pay than for one where the board chooses how to spend the money.
Statewide poll results
The poll questioned a representative sample of 882 Colorado voters from across the state and found that 40% approve and 42% disapprove of the job their local school district is doing educating students. The remaining percentage didn't have an opinion.
Democrats are more likely to have a favorable view of their district (52%) and a much higher teacher favorability rating (70%) than Republicans. Conservatives mostly disapprove of their school district (57%) and have a lower teacher favorability rating (49%).
Magellan weighted the survey data to represent voter registration demographics within Colorado.
"It's the most chaotic environment" he'd encountered in attitudes toward public education in nearly three decades of polling," Magellan Strategies founder David Flaherty told Chalkbeat.
Flaherty believes the intense polarization means elected officials need to convince voters its schools are giving students a good education "regardless of political ties."