10th 2010
Most Voters Still Lowball the Amount of Money Funding K-12 Public Schools

Posted under Innovation and Reform & PPC & Research & School Choice & School Finance

Interesting results from a survey by the Foundation for Educational Choice came out recently, gauging opinions and understanding of education issues of voters in six different states: Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, New Jersey and New York.

Taking a look at the full results (PDF) is fascinating. A few items about school choice jump out. Respondents in all states strongly support charter schools and private school tax credit programs and also favor vouchers. But interestingly, there was a lot of skepticism about virtual schools. Maybe if voters in these states were more familiar with online education as we are in Colorado, their opinions would change.

The two questions I wanted to focus on related to public school funding. The share of survey respondents who said funding in their state is “too low” (51 percent) was nearly five times as high as those who said it’s “too high” (11 percent), and more than those who say it’s “just right” (31 percent). Schools always need more funding, right?

But just as a 2007 Harvard survey for Education Next so prominently demonstrated, the voters in the new Foundation for Educational Choice survey wildly underestimated how much money is currently being spent per student. The median answer ranged from 27 percent of the actual amount in Alabama to 46 percent of the actual amount in Arkansas, while only 1 in 9 correctly identified the range of per-pupil funding in their respective states.

What wasn’t tested was whether and how much learning the correct spending figure changes the opinions of those surveyed — as a couple of professors showed in a 2008 study. And if, as seems more and more likely, it’s true that the Golden Age of Education Spending is over, just how will public opinion on the topic change? And will school leaders embrace the golden opportunity to reform?


2 Responses to “Most Voters Still Lowball the Amount of Money Funding K-12 Public Schools”

  1. Gary Scofield on 12 Dec 2010 at 4:19 pm #

    Interesting but not very useful! The problem is since so much is “kind of hidden” for the educational consumers why would they know what is spent on education or even how?

    In attendinng school board meetinngs and other public meetings about education you just don’t see anyone outside of the process in attendance. I don’t believe its a lack of concern or of interest but a problem of understanding among the general population. It also has to do with their own familiariy. Since we are all experienced with education most people believe they already know what’s happening due to their own past exeriences. Be they correct or incorrect opinions it just doesn’t matter because it is theirs.

    Only by correcting the state educational system itself or these indivduals view points one by one to have the affect you want in consumer knowledge.

  2. Eddie on 13 Dec 2010 at 11:10 am #

    Thanks for your comment, Gary. “Interesting but not very useful!” In and of itself, you’re largely correct. But your last point about the need for “correcting the state educational system itself” shows that this information is indeed one more possible starting point in which to engage people’s interest in the larger project of education transformation. No small task, I concede. But a project that cannot be ignored nor left to the devices of vested interest groups with a financial stake in the status quo.

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