Press Release

First education-related COVID-19 poll reveals parents are more concerned about their child’s education than financial issues, access to food and social distancing

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Education Association (IEA) today released poll results showing the COVID-19 school building closures have given Illinois parents a greater appreciation for all school employees, from teachers to bus drivers and food service workers.

“Our members turned on a dime to make remote learning happen. We worked hard to provide meals to our students, did our best to make sure they had the resources they needed to learn and we connected with them in a variety of ways to make sure their education continued during the stay at home order,” IEA President Kathi Griffin said. “Having our partners in education, our parents, respond so positively is a sign of respect and confidence in our educators and other school professionals. I am thankful for this deserved recognition.”

The data show that more than 75 percent of the parents surveyed have serious concerns about keeping their children’s education on track, putting education concerns above financial issues, social distancing and food. The vast majority of parents also say they are hopeful some form of in-person learning will resume this fall.

The IEA is advocating for the passage of the HEROES Act by Congress to help cover any potential education funding shortfalls caused by COVID-19.Passage of the bill could save thousands of educators’ jobs in Illinois alone.

“In order for that to happen, we need to pass the HEROES Act in Congress. This bill addresses the digital divide, student trauma, special education and will make sure there is proper personal protective equipment in all our schools,” Griffin said. “Its passage will mean the funding Illinois needs for our students and our educators will be there next school year. That’s why we’re asking everyone to sign our petition and let both Senator Durbin and Senator Duckworth know how important passage of the HEROES Act is to our schools and state.

Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed said their children were learning through paper packets. While at the same time, parents noted online, real-time, virtual learning was their preferred method of remote learning. The number one thing parents most want is more distance learning resources for teachers.

“There is a digital divide we must address. There are students without access to the internet, either because they live in a rural area or their parents can’t afford to pay for internet access. There are students without access to a computer or device or who must share a device with all members of their family,” Griffin said.  “We must make remote learning equitable to all of our students, so if the COVID-19 pandemic continues to force us to socially distance, all students will have equitable access to the best public remote education possible.”

One-third of the parents surveyed said distance learning made their children stressed. Parents also say their children are checked out, confused and sad.

“One of the most difficult parts of learning is that our educators can’t see their students in person. We know some students have difficult home lives. Some don’t have a home at all,” Griffin said. “For these students, school was an unwavering constant, a safe place for food, comfort and learning. These are the children we’re most worried about. We need to make sure we offer as much support as possible to them.”

The poll, conducted by Normington Petts and Associates, surveyed 500 parents outside the city of Chicago who identified themselves as parents of public school students between May 15 and 19. It has a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percent with 95 percent confidence.

“This is the first and only look at what parents in Illinois think about remote learning during the Coronavirus pandemic, and it speaks to the importance of public education,” Jill Normington said.

To request an interview with IEA President Kathi Griffin or the full poll crosstabs, please contact bridget.shanahan@ieanea.org.

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The 135,000 member Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA) is the state’s largest education employee’s organization. IEA represents preK-12 teachers outside of the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.