Classrooms at Calhan High School on March 15, 2022. Calhan High serves upward of 400 students from preschool to 12th grade. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Two years into the pandemic and amid intense political polarization, more Colorado voters think schools are on the wrong track, according to a new survey from polling firm Magellan Strategies

In reviewing survey respondents’ conflicting reasons for pessimism, Magellan Strategies founder David Flaherty said intense rhetoric from conservatives seems to be driving those negative views among voters of all persuasions.

“Two communities are not happy, but for different reasons,” Flaherty said. “Democrats are upset because they see schools as underfunded, conservative boards firing superintendents for no reason, injecting conservative ideology into education. The Republicans are the opposite. They think liberal woke-ism, gender, and sexuality are being injected into schools across the state at every level, and you can’t avoid it no matter where you are.”

Even as 44% of voters described schools as being on the wrong track, compared to just 28% who thought they were on the right track, a large majority of respondents — 58% — said they had a favorable view of the teachers in their local district and nearly as many said they would vote for a modest tax increase to pay teachers more. 

Magellan Strategies surveyed 882 Colorado registered voters between April 26 and May 1. Survey questions were developed in collaboration with Chalkbeat. The survey has a margin of error of 3.3%.

The survey results were weighted to be representative of Colorado voter registration demographics. For that reason, respondents are more likely to be white and well-off than Colorado public school parents. Only about 30% of respondents were parents of school-aged children, similar to the percentage of voters in most elections.

Flaherty called it “the most chaotic environment” he’d encountered in attitudes toward public education in nearly three decades of polling. 


Erica Meltzer is Bureau Chief of Chalkbeat Colorado, where she also covers the legislature and statewide education issues. Erica was a founding editor of the local news site Denverite. Before that, she covered everything from housing and energy...