Poll: Michigan Dems, GOP disagree whether schools will be safe for kids

Will Michigan schools be safe for kids in the fall? Your opinion may depend on your political party. (Bridge file photo)

How worried Michigan parents are about their kids returning to school in the fall largely depends on if they’re Republicans or Democrats, according to a new poll by an education advocacy group.

Republicans were more than three times more likely than Democrats (61 percent, compared to 19 percent) to say they were “very comfortable” sending their children back to a traditional school environment in September, in a statewide poll conducted by the Tri-County Alliance for Public Education, based in southeast Michigan. 

The poll, conducted May 30-31, asked 600 parents with children in K-12 public schools their views on Michigan schools reopening in the fall, likely before a vaccine is developed for COVID-19. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

You can see the complete poll here.

Michigan’s public and private K-12 school buildings closed in mid-March to slow the spread of coronavirus, which has now sickened almost 60,000 and killed nearly 5,700 in the state.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently created a 20-person advisory panel to make recommendations on how to reopen schools safely. Those recommendations aren’t expected to be released until later this summer.

Overall, six of 10 parents in the poll said they were comfortable or very comfortable sending their children back to Michigan schools in the fall. But there were clear partisan divides.

While 41 percent of respondents who identified themselves as Democrats said they were comfortable or very comfortable with their children returning to school, 80 percent of Republicans were comfortable or very comfortable. Among those who did not identify with either major political party, 64 percent were comfortable or very comfortable with the idea.

Republicans were less likely (46 percent) than Democrats (84 percent) to believe it was very important that their child’s school met or exceeded the safety recommendations of medical experts for coronavirus.

The partisan divide in the poll results follows weeks of protest of Whitmer’s stay-at-home executive orders. 

“The role of an administrator at a school is not to make a child of a Republican or a Democrat safe, it’s to make every child feel safe,” said Robert McCann, executive director of the Tri-County Alliance and a former spokesperson for Michigan Senate Democrats.

“This shouldn’t be a partisan issue right now. We need to give schools the resources they need to open up safely in the fall, and we need to do that soon because schools need to start planning.”

Other poll findings include: 

  • 21 percent of parents said that the remote learning process that replaced in-person schooling this spring was poor for their children. 
  • Of the parents who thought remote learning was a poor experience, 35 percent said it was because at home schooling made it hard for their children to focus and learn, and 24 percent believed their child wasn’t learning anything. 
  • 45 percent said that they would be much less likely to vote for a candidate that voted to cut school budgets before the school year starts next fall. 
  • 43 percent of parents strongly agree that schools will need to institute strict safety protocols to make them safe for students to return.
  • 44 percent said that if schools are not open in the fall, it could affect their ability to pay their bills, because of the need to care for children at home.

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Ruby Susan
Tue, 06/09/2020 - 7:55pm

Wow- 44 percent said that if schools are not open in the fall that it could affect their ability to pay their bills because of the need to care for children at home. So if the state doesn't return back to normal, than almost half of people in Michigan will have trouble paying their bills and may lose their house, cars, retirements, college savings, or not have enough food to put on the table.

9.987 million live in Michigan, 44 percent of that is 4.39 million. Over 4 million Michigan residents are facing a dire economic situation and impending doom- and Whitmer's 20-person advisory panel won't make any decisions until later this summer.

Matt G
Thu, 06/18/2020 - 9:39am

Blah blah blah I don't like Whitmer so I'm going to complain in the internet comment section about keeping people safe.

There are currently 3 states in the country with low risk of another outbreak. Michigan is one of them. Whitmer's actions and enough people following state rules and recommendations are the only reason we're in a position to keep risk low.

If they need a few more weeks to make good decisions then I support that. Would we all rather know what's up sooner? Of course, but those of us who don't have a particular narrative agenda aren't whining about how long it takes to do things right.

Former Republican
Tue, 06/09/2020 - 8:23pm

I guess I'm a Democrat. I can't understand all the reckless behavior. It's exactly like 1918 all over again.

George Hagenauer
Wed, 06/10/2020 - 9:14am

The most logical bit of analysis was not done with the data. The study focuses on parties as opposed to people's experience with the virus. I live in a hot spot where about 1 in 100 people have been tested positive for the virus. I know no one who has had it (most of my friends are quarantining seniors) but a number of my friends know people who have had a death in the family and if I am out almost daily I see ambulances. Compare that to someone in a county with few cases . I don't ear the virus but am aware it is here and need to take it into account. A person with no experience doesn't. It is odd that that variable was not part of the analysis and might have provided more useful data to work with than just partisan politics.

John Chastain
Wed, 06/10/2020 - 9:19am

Dividing this into a partisan narrative is counterproductive and troubling to say the least. Like the use of masks and social distancing it has come to represent something more than what it actually is. So as a liberal I’m supposed to have one opinion, as a working class white man another etc etc etc. Well sorry it’s more complicated than that. I have many of the same concerns about reopening schools as many “democrats” and I have some of the same concerns regarding leaving them closed as some “republicans” what does that make me? Well it makes me a grandfather and primary care giver to an adolescent girl who’s education and emotional health care have been violently disrupted by the pandemic “and” its consequences. The only people I know whose children are copping with home schooling are the kind my daughter is employed by. IE financial well off, working from home and have a nanny (my daughter) or the equivalent. The loss of school based stability and mental health services has had a dramatic impact on my grandchild’s welfare and progress. The expectations that I or others in similar circumstances can replicate educational and emotional health care at home with little actual support is extremely unrealistic on its face. This is true for many working class families who are under a great deal of stress from the pandemic and the methods put in place to cope with it. I don’t come from the perspective that dismisses the very real hazards that Covid presents and find much of the republican arguments vapid and dishonest but that doesn’t diminish other valid arguments. If there isn’t some form of schooling and other services that goes beyond what is currently offered then a great many children will suffer from the consequences. That ain’t partisan, it’s a reality my grandchild and many others are living day to day. I’m tired of partisan pampered and mostly privileged people who argue endlessly instead of finding solutions to very real problems. How about we focus on that instead.

Wed, 06/10/2020 - 10:54am

Of course they're safe. These kids and adults have a better chance of being killed on or by a school bus than from this virus. Regardless of that fact, I will continue to promote home schooling as a safe way to educate our young as it keep them safe from the massive liberal indoctrination that is oozing through all levels of education from public schools to universities. My kids will be free thinkers, not indoctrinated little heathens like we see running around right now.

Matt G
Thu, 06/18/2020 - 9:46am

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Hey Bridge...It's nice that you added this message, but really? This fits right into that category of false and defamatory.

What Purpose?
Wed, 06/10/2020 - 11:35am

Before September, parents are back to work; children are out enjoying their free time or working; stores, restaurants, hair salons are all open to the public; places of worship hold regular services; athletic teams are all practicing; etc. How is messing with the traditional school day model going to have a significant impact on virus transmission when outside the classroom there is no lock down? Weigh that "risk" against the proven harmful effects on children's learning, health and safety that have already become known in the last 3 months.

Avrey P
Wed, 06/10/2020 - 4:50pm

The governor is literally encouraging shoulder to shoulder protests with hundreds to thousands of people, yet all of you are debating whether school is safe for kids ??

Matt G
Thu, 06/18/2020 - 9:48am

No, the governor encouraged social distancing and mask wearing at the completely legal protests. You could try actually reading her quotes instead of substituting your own reality.