Oregonians and K-12 Education

K-12 education is a top priority for Oregonians, which makes their feelings about their local school board all the more concerning.

From March 16-23, 2022, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs about services and policies that are commonly recommended for supporting Oregon children. The question numbers in this document correspond with the survey questionnaire (Q1, Q1a, Q6, Q27).  

What Education Level is Most Important to Oregonians?

When it comes to what education level Oregonians prioritize for the expenditure of taxpayer dollars, a plurality (26%) say grades 9-12 are the most important. The second priority tier includes K-3rd grade (17%), grades 4-8 (13%) and community colleges (11%) (Q1). 

Grades 9-12 are the top priority for men and women (30% and 23%, respectively). Prioritizing grades K-3 are a close second for women at 21%. Oregonians with school-aged children place the highest priority on grades 9-12 (33%).  

Democrats are more likely to prioritize birth to age 5 education for the expenditure of taxpayer dollars than Republicans (15% vs. 4%). Prioritization of this education level increases with higher respondent education levels. 

Provided the open-ended opportunity to comment on the most important levels of education, several key themes emerge, including an emphasis on vocational/trade schooling, the importance of early education for healthy development, and the overall difficulty of prioritizing one grade level over another. Below are some representative quotes (Q1a).   

“All little humans need a solid foundation at the beginning of their lives. However, taxpayer dollars are needed at all levels to ensure quality education throughout their lives.”  

Woman, age 65-74, Deschutes County, White 

“The middle school through high school years are where kids are most likely going to make the decision of pursuing higher education, a career path and/or trade school. More focus on helping define and support these decisions is important.”  

Man, age 55-64, Washington County, Black or African American and White 

“Early education is critical to childhood development and future economic and social success. It’s highly correlated with crime reduction and other community challenges.”  

Woman, non-binary or gender non-conforming, age 30-44, Multnomah County, White  

“Kids heading into the vulnerable teen years deserve resources and optional education programs.  Trades, personal finance, Civics seems to be under emphasized.”  

Man, age 55-64, Washington County, White 

Oregonians Want to Nurture the Whole Child

When it comes to curriculum for K-12 schools, Oregonians rank “nurturing of the whole child” (i.e. schools should tend to the social, emotional, and mental health needs of students and make sure they are developing non-cognitive skills like relationship building and self-motivation) as the most important consideration for students and the future of Oregon (39%). This was ranked as more important than “back to basics” (23%), “standardized curriculum” (21%), and parent choice (Q17%) (Q6). 

 

Women are more likely to rank “nurturing of the whole child” as #1 than men (45% vs. 32%). Democrats are significantly more likely than Republicans to rank this consideration as most important (52% vs. 11%). This consideration also received the highest top ratings from Oregonians both with and without school-aged children (42% and 38%, respectively).  Republicans are most likely to choose “back to basics” as their #1 consideration (46%).  

Is the School Board on Board? (Do Oregonians Think it represents their views?)

Oregonians are split on whether they feel the school board in their district represents their values and beliefs, with 36% saying yes and 38% saying no. A notable 26% are unsure, perhaps indicating a lack of familiarity with the work of their local school district (Q27).  

  • Democrats are more likely than Republicans to feel their local school board represents their values and beliefs (45% vs. 33%).  
  • Higher income ($100K or more/year) and higher educated Oregonians (college degree and higher) are more likely to feel their local school board represents their values and beliefs than those earning less and those with less formal education.  

Demographic Trends

“Identifying what unites us and understanding what divides us.” 

Reported below are statistically significant subgroup differences between BIPOC and white Oregonians, urban and rural Oregonians, and age groups.  Many of these differences are not major and are presented to inform public education and communications initiatives.   

  • BIPOC and white Oregonians both cite grades 9-12 as their top priority for the expenditure of taxpayer dollars (27% and 26%, respectively) (Q1). 
  • BIPOC and white Oregonians also rank “nurturing of the whole child” as the #1 most important consideration for students and the future of Oregon when it comes to curriculum for K-12 schools (43% and 38%, respectively) (Q6).  
  • When it comes to prioritizing grade levels for taxpayer funds, grades 9-12 are the top priority for Oregonians ages 18-29 (37%), 11 points above the overall average (Q1).  
  • Top rankings for “nurturing of the whole child” as the most important consideration for curriculum for K-12 schools are higher among those ages 18-29 (50%) compared to Oregonians ages 55+ (28-36%) (Q6). 
  • Older Oregonians ages 75+ are more likely to feel their local school board represents their values and beliefs when compared to all other age groups (50% vs. 32-38%) (Q27).   
  • While rural and urban Oregonians both cite grades 9-12 as their top priority for the expenditure of taxpayer dollars, rural residents do so to a greater extent (33% and 24%, respectively) (Q1).  
  • Inversely, urban and rural Oregonians also rank “nurturing of the whole child” as the #1 most important consideration for students and the future of Oregon when it comes to curriculum for K-12 schools, but this time urbanities do so to a greater degree (45% and 32%, respectively) (Q6).  
  • Urban and rural Oregonians are equally as likely to feel their local school board represents their values and beliefs (both 36%) (Q27).  

Methodology: The online survey consisted of 1,563 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. Respondents were contacted by using professionally maintained online panels. In gathering responses, a variety of quality control measures were employed, including questionnaire pre-testing, validation, and real-time monitoring of responses. To ensure a representative sample, demographic quotas were set, and data weighted by area of the state, gender, age, and education. 
Statement of Limitations: Based on a 95% confidence interval, this survey’s margin of error, for the full sample, ranges from ±1.1% to ±1.9%. Due to rounding, numbers may not add up to 100%. 

This survey uses aggregated data to analyze the opinions of BIPOC residents in comparison to the opinions of residents who identify as white and not another race. BIPOC residents are not a monolith; the grouping represents a wide diversity of races and ethnicities. The findings included in this memo should not be construed such that all people of color are believed to share the same opinions. Disaggregated race data will be provided when sample sizes permit reliability. 

This research was completed as a community service by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center, an independent and non-partisan organization. OVBC is an Oregon charitable nonprofit corporation (https://oregonvbc.org).

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Analysis and Reporting by: Ari Wubbold