As the nation debates how quickly to reopen schools, a new poll finds that New Jersey voters 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.

The survey of 960 voters conducted by Change Research and commissioned by Newark-based non-profit 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 to 73% of white parents.

“As a Black parent myself, these results are deeply troubling,” said Project Ready Executive Director Shennell McCloud. “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 coronavirus.

A large racial gap exists on the pace of reopening schools. While overall, 46% of voters believe the state is moving too slowly compared to 22% who say it is moving too fast, just 20% of Black and 27% of Hispanic voters believe the state is moving too slowly compared to 53% of white voters.

Racial and socio-economic gaps persist for digital access. For remote learning households, a third (36%) of Black parents say they lack sufficient internet access compared to just 13% of white parents. Among households with incomes under $50K, 9% lack the needed devices, compared to only 1% of households with incomes over $100K.

Parents are worried about their kids falling behind with remote learning. Two-thirds (69%) express this emotion, including 75% of white parents and 60% of African-Americans.

Households, particularly African-American households, have faced significant financial impacts from COVID.

Overall, 43% of households include someone who had working hours reduced and a quarter (24%) who have lost a job. 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.

Low-income (under $50K) households also have been disproportionately impacted by this (23%) than those in middle ($50K to $100K) (9%) or high-income (over $100K) households (7%). Having to leave a job or work fewer hours due to lack of childcare has been particularly acute in Black households (18%) compared to white households (5%).

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