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New Public Agenda Report Reveals Chicago Residents’ Priorities for Public Schools

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New Public Agenda Report Reveals Chicago Residents’ Priorities for Public Schools

May 14, 2024 – Public Agenda, a research-to-action nonprofit dedicated to building a democracy that works for everyone, announced today the release of a new report shedding light on the pressing concerns and priorities of Chicago residents regarding their public schools. 

Full Report Here

Supported by the Joyce Foundation, the research features findings from a survey of Chicago residents that delve into their perspectives on education, ranging from academic success, financial responsibility, school choice, the city’s upcoming school board election, and more. This report is the latest installment in Public Agenda’s work in education, supporting people and organizations working towards equitable, inclusive educational institutions that feed democracy. 

Key takeaways: 

Chicagoans’ top concern about the city’s public schools is that students are not learning enough. Chicagoans do not believe that the city’s public schools provide high-quality, equitable education.

  • Insufficient academic learning is the issue that the largest share of Chicagoans believe needs to be addressed in the public schools. 
  • Hardly any Chicago residents grade the city’s public schools an A. Poverty and other challenges impacting students is the most cited reason why schools might have a lot of students who are not succeeding academically.
  • Most residents think white students have access to better public schools than students of color in Chicago. 
  • Most parents’ primary expectation for schools is to prepare students for college. But a growing share of city residents expect schools to prepare students to get good jobs.
  • To improve schools, Chicagoans favor training teachers and principals, replacing underperforming teachers, and demanding that schools implement improvement plans. They are divided over closing academically struggling schools.

Chicagoans are skeptical about how CPS spends money.

  • Few city residents are confident that the CPS budget is spent effectively. Parents are split over whether CPS needs more money or needs to spend more wisely. 
  • No approach to balancing the city budget is popular, but laying off teachers and cutting extracurriculars are especially unpopular. 
  • While over half of Chicagoans support educating migrant children, even more express concern about the cost of doing so. 

Chicagoans, especially parents, are divided over school choice. 

  • Half of Chicagoans, including modest majorities of Asian, Black, and Latino residents, believe students should be able to attend any public school, even if neighborhood schools languish. 
  • Two-thirds of Chicagoans believe CPS should prioritize improving neighborhood schools over school choice, but parents are divided on this question.

Few Chicagoans think politicians are focused on students. Less than half think an elected school board will positively impact students. Chicagoans do not feel well-informed about the city’s schools. 

  • Most Chicagoans think politicians are focused on petty political battles. More city residents trust teachers and principals to look out for students than trust the teachers union, board of education, CPS central office, or mayor to do so.
  • Most Chicagoans are unaware that school board members will be elected in 2024. Four in ten think an elected board will serve students better than an appointed board. 
  • Television news and word of mouth from friends or family are Chicagoans’ main source of news about K-12 education. But most Chicagoans do not feel very informed about the city’s public schools.


These findings and more are detailed in the full report. To read the full report, visit here

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Questions or requests can be directed to Public Agenda’s Press Office [email protected]

About Public Agenda

Public Agenda is a national research-to-action organization that digs deep into the key challenges facing our democracy to uncover insights and solutions. Founded in 1975 by the social scientist and public opinion research pioneer Dan Yankelovich and former secretary of state Cyrus Vance, we engage with advocates, journalists, policymakers, and the philanthropic community to ensure public voice is heard in conversations that shape our shared future.

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