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

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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