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LISTEN: Statewide survey shows largely positive marks for Virginia’s public schools

Dr. Stephen J. Farnsworth-Professor of Political Science and International Affairs & Director, Center for Leadership and Media Studies at UMW talks about the findings:

By Center for Media and Leadership Studies

Virginians give their local public-school districts generally good marks when it comes both to educating children and providing a safe environment, according to this year’s statewide survey from the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington.

Local public school districts received generally high marks, according to a new statewide survey by the University of Mary Washington's Center for Leadership and Media Studies. Adobe Stock.
Local public school districts received generally high marks, according to a new statewide survey by the University of Mary Washington’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies. Adobe Stock.

Asked to evaluate how well their local K-12 public schools educate children, 36 percent of respondents gave their schools an A or B grade, and another 29 percent rated their local schools a C for adequate. Ten percent gave their local schools an F for failure, while another 13 percent offered a D grade, which represented less than adequate. The rest were uncertain. The 1,000-person poll of Virginia adults was conducted for UMW’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies by Research America Inc. Sept. 5-11.

On the question of safety in their community schools, 41 percent of those surveyed gave their local district schools an A or a B grade, while 27 percent said the local public schools deserved a C, or adequate, performance assessment. Seven percent said the schools deserved an F for failure regarding safety, while another 10 percent said that their local school deserved a D for inadequate. The rest were uncertain.

“This survey shows that those combative voices at school board meetings are not representative of public opinion across the Commonwealth regarding public education,” said Stephen J. Farnsworth, professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington and director of UMW’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies. “Overall, Virginians remain quite positive about the performance of their schools, both regarding education generally and providing a safe learning environment.”

Asked whether Governor Youngkin should have more or less power over K-12 public education policymaking, 42 percent said they thought the governor should have less power, while 21 percent said the governor should have more power. Another 19 percent said the governor’s current influence over education was about right, while the rest were unsure.

“Public school concerns remain particularly divisive as Virginia heads into the fall election season,” Farnsworth said.

Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents (64 percent) said Virginia education policies would be a major factor in deciding their vote in the November legislative elections. The survey showed that neither party had a clear advantage on this topic, with nearly identical proportions of Democrats, Republicans and independents considering the issue a priority this fall.

Survey information:

The University of Mary Washington’s Fall 2023 Virginia Survey was conducted by Research America Inc. during September 5-11, 2023. The total sample included 1,000 Virginia residents, including 833 registered voters and 771 likely voters. Part of the sample (600) was contacted by phone (80 percent cell and 20 percent landline), and part of the sample (400) was contacted online. All interviews were in English. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies, including age, gender and race/ethnicity. The margin of error on the total sample is +/- 3.0%.  The margin of error on the Likely Voters portion of the sample is +/- 3.5%.

For more survey results, see Topline.

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