Boston parents are significantly less satisfied with the education their children receive in the city's public schools today than they were a year ago, according to a survey released Monday by The MassINC Polling Group.

Less than a third of the parents questioned — 29% — said they were "very satisfied" with the district. That's down significantly from this time last year, when 41% of parents expressed the top level of support.

“What stuck out to me in this survey is that it showed the continual decline in satisfaction ratings that showed across a whole range of different questions that we asked," said MassINC president Steve Koczela. Monday's poll is the fourth in a series of Boston Public Schools parent surveys going back to last summer.

“When you ask questions like ‘Do you think BPS is living up to commitments that it's made?’ we see the same kind of degradation in numbers," he added. "Now, overall, people are at least somewhat satisfied. It's not like there's a mass of seething discontent or anything like that.”

Perhaps the most damning result for BPS was that an increasing number of parents see the district as being more focused on BPS leaders and politicians rather than focusing on students.

Just 43% of parents surveyed identified students as one of the top two groups served by BPS, down from 54% a year ago. And the percentage of parents who thought BPS was focused on BPS leaders was up 8 points to 31%, with those saying it was focused on politicians up 4 points to 24%.

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Screen capture of MassINC poll

Of note in the poll was that some parents in different racial and ethnic groups were more satisfied with BPS than their white counterparts.

"Latino and Asian-American parents, specifically, are more positive on the schools, more satisfied than our white and even Black respondents,” Koczela said.

Latino parents and non-English speaking parents had some of the highest rates of being “very satisfied” with their schools, ranging from 41% to 45% — that’s compared to just 26% for both white parents and English-speaking parents.

Black, Asian and Latino parents were all also significantly more satisfied with their communication with the public school system than their white counterparts.

In addition, Latino parents, parents of English-language learners, parents speaking a language other than English, and those with a household income of less than $50,000 or with a high school degree or less were all more likely to say that BPS is living up to its commitment on “transforming the lives of all children.” Still, the highest percentage rate for any group of parents saying BPS was doing that “very well” topped out at 41%.

Koczela did emphasize that the poll indicates some good opportunities for the new BPS Superintendent Mary Skipper, who has said she plans to start in late September.

"There are real bright spots in here for the new superintendent,” said Koczela. “One is that 85% [of parents] say they're following BPS news very closely. And about the same number, 83%, say they want to be very engaged with their child's education."

The poll found a gap to bridge there, in that only 45% of parents felt that BPS enables them to be very engaged with their child’s education, indicating a possibly high level of frustration and a disconnect between parents’ ambitions and the opportunities offered by the district.

"The challenge, of course, is that the perception right now is that [parents] don't feel like BPS wants them to be that engaged with their child's education,” Koczela said. “But if you can somehow thread that needle and let parents follow along and be as engaged as they want to be, these numbers suggest that there are a lot of parents ready to roll up their sleeves and help do the work there."

When it comes to spending the approximately $10,000 per pupil the school system will receive for federal COVID-19 relief, 89% favored spending it on mental health resources and 87% for new technology and instructional materials.

"The least popular idea was distributing the funds directly to BPS families," the poll found.