Friday, August 5, 2011

Do Americans want to spend more money on education?

Paul Petersen of Harvard and the Hoover Institution writes in the WSJ:
In a survey released this week by Education Next, an education research journal, my colleagues and I reported that 65% of the public wants to spend more on our schools. The remaining 35% think spending should either be cut or remain at current levels. That's the kind of polling data that the president's political advisers undoubtedly rely upon when they decide to appeal for more education spending. 
Yet the political reality is more complex than those numbers suggest. When the people we surveyed were told how much is actually spent in our schools—$12,922 per student annually, according to the most recent government report—then only 49% said they want to pony up more dollars. We discovered this by randomly splitting our sample in half, asking one half the spending question cold turkey, while giving the other half accurate information about current expenditure. 
Later in the same survey, we rephrased the question to bring out the fact that more spending means higher taxes. Specifically, we asked: "Do you think that taxes to fund public schools around the nation should increase, decrease or stay about the same?" When asked about spending in this way, which addresses the tax issue frankly, we found that only 35% support an increase. Sixty-five percent oppose the idea, saying instead that spending should either decrease or stay about the same. The majority also doesn't want to pay more taxes to support their local schools. Only 28% think that's a good idea.

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