Granite Staters overwhelmingly side with parents over school officials when it comes to having the final say in their children’s educations, and that includes a majority of Democrats, according to a new NHJournal/coefficient poll released Monday. In particular, New Hampshire voters reject policies of school districts like Manchester that keep information about children’s behavior secret from their parents.
The balance of power between parents and school officials has emerged at the center of American politics at both the state and national levels. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s upset victory in 2021 is attributed in large part to his advocacy on behalf of parents who felt ignored by the public school system. This new poll shows New Hampshire voters share some of those same frustrations.
Asked who should have the final say when it comes to what is taught in the classroom, parents or teachers and school administrators, Granite State voters picked parents by a nearly 2-1 margin, 59-32 percent. That included 81 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of unaffiliated voters.
When it comes to health decisions made at school, support for parents over school officials surged to 80 percent. Just 14 percent of Granite Staters said the school should make those decisions. Even Democrats, who tend to side with school administrators and teachers unions more frequently, supported parents by a 63-26 percent margin.
And when it came to the right to review the curriculum being taught to their children, support for parents was even higher, 82-13 percent, with Democrats at 76-16 percent support.
Legislation advancing parents’ rights died in the last session of the legislature, due in part to resistance from Gov. Chris Sununu. But the issue is coming back this session with HB10, named the Parental Bill of Rights. Sending a signal of how important the parents-rights legislation is to Republicans, the bill’s prime sponsor in the Senate is Majority Leader Sharon Carson and in the House, it is Speaker Sherman Packard.
“We need to get a parents’ bill of rights passed,” said Senate President Jeb Bradley. “And I have tremendous confidence we have the wherewithal this year to get it through.”
The poll also asked about a specific, New Hampshire issue. Manchester public schools have a policy of keeping students’ on-campus behavior regarding sex and gender secret from parents, ordering teachers not to inform moms and dads about what their children are doing. It is a position supported by elected Democrats like U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas. New Hampshire state Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley even claimed the policy was necessary to prevent “kids being beaten to death” by Granite State parents.
But Democratic pols are on the wrong side of the voters, it appears, with 78 percent supporting a parent’s right to know. That included 83 percent of independents and 61 percent of Democrats.
And the poll had bad news for legislators hoping to evade the issue. Asked if they are more or less likely to vote for a local official or school board member who is committed to protecting parental rights, 67 percent said more while just 19 percent said less.
“We’re seeing a seismic shift right now in K-12 education because parents are demanding different choices for their children,” said Kate Baker, executive director of the Children’s Scholarship Fund NH. “Parents want all of us to re-think education and they want to be in the driver’s seat.”
Adam Waldeck with 1776 Action said elected officials should pay special attention to the bipartisan support for this legislation.
“It’s clear that voters across the entire ideological spectrum are very unified on this issue,” said Waldeck. “They believe parents have the right to direct their children’s education and not be kept in the dark by government schools, period. Activists on the far Left have been very noisy trying to make this into some right-wing bogeyman, but they aren’t winning many converts. Their positions are incredibly unpopular.”
Waldeck said his organization, which was part of the successful push for the anti-discrimination legislation (sometimes called the “anti-CRT” bill) in the 2021 budget, is already planning an advocacy campaign on behalf of HB10.
Ryan Terrell is a member of the state board of education, and he is also the newly-elected vice chair of the state Republican Party.
“I think these [poll] numbers show parents aren’t willing to adopt the old rules. They are looking to play an active role in the education of their children. They don’t want the administration and teachers making all the decisions for their children,” Terrell said. He added he believes the issue will be a winner for the GOP in the coming months.
Waldeck agreed. “This is not a 50/50 fight. It’s more like 75/25. Hopefully, elected officials in New Hampshire, as well as all the presidential hopefuls starting to campaign throughout the state, are paying close attention.”
Baker broke it down more simply.
“In New Hampshire, we trust parents. After all, they are the first educators of their children.”