Businessweek + Equality

Part 2:
How We’re Failing Schools

Public education has become the latest American institution to face an erosion of support.

As conceived by America’s founding fathers, public education was supposed to bind together a nation of immigrants from disparate classes. But public schools today are at the center of controversy, over curricula, security protocols, mask mandates, and more. As of June, only 29% of Americans—and just 14% of Republicans—put their trust in them, the lowest level since Gallup began asking the question in 1973. Parents are increasingly voting with their feet. Voucher programs in 15 states now use taxpayer dollars to subsidize tuition at private or religious schools. Charter schools account for almost 7% of overall enrollment; in Washington, D.C., 43% of public school children attend one. Also, more kids are getting home-schooled. This fragmentation is fostering divisions along racial and socioeconomic lines in ways that run contrary to the original ideal.


Opinions—and funding—are becoming more polarized

Source: Gallup, US Census, Ballotpedia


Enrollment in traditional public schools is down, while alternatives grow more popular

2022 enrollment is projected Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)


Conservatives are targeting books, classroom curricula, and school boards

*Struck down by Arizona Supreme Court Sources: UCLA/IDEA, American Library Association, Ballotpedia, PEN America


School shootings make big headlines and spur increasing security measures

Sources: Naval Postgraduate School K-12 School Shooting Database, NCES, Gallup


Covid has created new challenges and eroded job satisfaction

Sources: McKinsey, AFT Member Survey, BLS


More are trying it, but it’s not a good fit for all families

Sources: NCES, BLS


Alternatives to public schools are less diverse in terms of socioeconomics and race

*Includes associate’s degrees Source: NCES

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