Return to in-person learning: Jerseyans split — with strong racial component to results

New Jerseyans are split on how quickly schools should reopen — and they are sharply divided along racial lines, not only in how their children are currently learning, but also in whether they want to return to in-person learning, a new survey by Change Research shows.

The survey of 960 voters, commissioned by Newark-based nonprofit Project Ready, found that the children of Black parents (78%) are much more likely to participate in only-remote learning instruction than the children of white parents (29%).

In addition, if given the option, only 24% of Black parents say they would want to return to in-person learning, compared with 73% of white parents.

Project Ready Executive Director Shennell McCloud said the results are noteworthy.

“As a Black parent myself, these results are deeply troubling,” she said. “Not because parents are doing anything wrong by choosing what they believe to be the safest option for their families, but because, as a society, we have let families down by not creating the conditions for Black parents to feel comfortable sending their children back into school buildings.

“It’s critical that state and city leaders work hard to win families’ trust so that inequity in access to learning does not disproportionately harm Black children any more than it already has.”

The survey also found widespread concern about kids falling behind with remote learning, along with racial and socio-economic gaps when it comes to digital access and the financial impact of COVID-19.

Among the key findings:

Pace of reopening schools

  • Overall: 46% of voters believe the state is moving too slowly (22% say it is moving too fast);
  • Black parents: 20% said state is moving too slowly;
  • Hispanic parents: 27% said state is moving too slowly;
  • White parents: 53% said state is moving too slowly.

Proper digital access for remote learning

  • Black parents: 36% said they lack sufficient internet access;
  • White parents: 13% said they lack sufficient internet access;
  • Making less than $50K: 9% said they lack needed devices;
  • Making more than $100K: 1% said they lack needed devices.

Worry that kids are falling behind with remote learning

  • Overall: 69% said they are concerned;
  • Black parents: 60% said they are concerned;
  • White parents: 75% said they are concerned.

Top concerns regarding remote learning vary

  • White and Hispanic parents: Most concerned about mental health, followed by long-term success;
  • Black parents: Most concerned about mental health, falling behind academically, not being able to provide financially because they have to be home during the day.

Financial impacts of pandemic

  • Loss of hours/job: Overall, 43% of households include someone who had working hours reduced and 24% have someone who lost a job;
  • Pay the rent/mortgage: Hispanic (20%) and Black (17%) households are more likely to have been unable to pay the rent or mortgage than those in white (10%) households.