Feb 17, 2022 - COVID

Survey of Texas K-12 parents reveals divisions over masks and vaccines

Illustration of a school bus wearing a mask.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A new poll of Texas K-12 teachers and parents reveals significant divisions over masks and COVID vaccine mandates in schools.

The big picture: Citadel Sciences polled K-12 teachers and parents on how to improve in-person learning environments.

Why it matters: Across the country, schools have been a flashpoint in the debate for mask mandates.

  • Blue states are increasingly easing mask mandates, including in public schools.
  • Democratic governors have recently announced plans to rescind mask mandates in schools, despite CDC recommendations for all students ages 2 years and older, staff, teachers and visitors to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

Of note: Gov. Greg Abbott banned local governments and school districts from instituting mask mandates last year. The order has faced a legal back-and-forth for months, but a federal appellate court temporarily restored Abbott's order in December.

  • AISD defied Abbott's original order, and its lawsuit against the state is still working its way through the court system, allowing the district to maintain its mask mandate.

The survey, conducted between Jan. 13-25, found that more than half of teachers say "political divisiveness" is the biggest challenge currently facing schools across the country.

Among the poll’s findings:

  • A majority of parents and teachers support mask requirements when COVID cases are high for unvaccinated kids.
  • Teachers are more than three times as concerned about learning gaps than their own risk of contracting COVID.
  • Around 75% of Texas parents are concerned about their child’s exposure to COVID at school, yet were most likely to cite their "greatest concern" as their child "not receiving a quality education due to the gaps the pandemic has caused."
  • Just 34% of parents and 30% of teachers think children should be required to receive a vaccine in order to attend school.

Zoom in: About 77% of Austin parents are concerned about their children’s exposure to COVID, a figure that’s slightly higher than the statewide number.

  • Most Austin parents, or 55%, believe children should be required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

Across the board: Most parents and teachers say clean and healthy air is important in a learning environment.

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