Child and family wellness programs are widely supported in Oregon, according to a new survey from the Oregon Values & Beliefs Center.
Surveyors asked 1,500 Oregon residents their opinions on a dozen different social programs benefiting children, from affordable housing to food access, and whether they would support their tax money going to those programs. They found that many would, despite differences in preferred programs on political and demographic lines.
Three of the most popular programs respondents supported included tutoring for students who need extra support, increasing access to extracurricular activities and a state program offering healthcare to eligible children. Upwards of 85% of those who responded to the survey said they supported those programs.
Survey takers felt less positive about using culturally inclusive learning materials, cultural awareness and implicit bias training for school staff and oral health care offered at schools — though 70% or more of respondents still supported those programs.
Political affiliation is a key factor in determining a person's support for those programs, researchers found.
About 91% of Democrats who took the survey supported using tax dollars to increase access to affordable housing, while just 64% of Republicans supported the same thing.
The two groups face the widest gap in beliefs on the question of using tax dollars to use "culturally inclusive" learning materials. 89% of Democrats expressed support, while just 40% of Republicans did the same. The two groups felt similarly about requiring cultural awareness and implicit bias training for school staff.
Noah Scott Warman,cq 52, a labor attorney and progressive Democrat from Portland, was one of the survey's respondents. He said that, while he agrees that diversity, equity and inclusion are important to consider in education, he worries schools are being asked to teach too many things.
"Are we asking the school systems to do too much, where it's underserving the primary good?" Warman said. "We're not treating teachers like professionals and letting them focus on what they're supposed to be doing."
Warman said while he disagrees with many of the more extreme arguments, he shares some of the core concerns about overreaching school curriculum as those expressed by those on the right in recent debates over school curriculum.
"There's a conservative attack on education that I don't want to echo, I think there's some interesting observations we need to think about," Warman said. "I think the common thread, to start with, there is a view of what is the primary goal â€“ it's not at odds with other goals. What is the primary purpose of getting this education?"
The survey revealed other spaces for common ground: Reducing barriers to behavioral health services, culturally responsive suicide prevention programs for communities at risk, increasing access to extracurricular and tutoring programs all saw upwards of 70% support from both Democrats and Republicans.
Survey taker Susan O'Neill, 68, a Republican from Medford who's retired and describes herself as "slightly conservative," said she supports using tax dollars for expanding access to behavioral health programs in schools.
"The whole idea, for me, of school is to help a small child grow up to be — if not happy — a contented and fully functioning human," O'Neill said. "And to do that, you need to not only teach Johnny to read and write, if he's got a mental illness, you also have to teach him to deal with that."
Access to those kinds of services for students could reduce the stigma around mental illness and expand access to mental health providers for people of all ages, O'Neill, who has bipolar disorder, told a reporter.
"It can cause the older relatives to question their own beliefs," O'Neill said.
Survey researchers found two other key predictors of a person's support for particular programs: age and homeownership. Older respondents tended to be less likely than younger respondents to support programs that included terms like "cultural awareness." Across the board, renters were more likely to support a given family service than homeowners.
The Oregon Values and Beliefs Center is committed to the highest level of public opinion research. To help obtain that, the nonprofit is building a large research panel of Oregonians to ensure that all voices are represented in discussions of public policy in a valid and statistically reliable way.
Selected panelists earn points for their participation, which can be redeemed for cash or donated to a charity. Learn more at oregonvbc.org.
The Oregon Capital Bureau is a news partner of the Portland Tribune.
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