Paul Peterson has a good column in today’s Wall Street Journal about the public’s perception of public schools — they are (correctly in Peterson’s judgment) unerwhelmed by school’s performance, especially compared internationally, but they also underestimate the amount of spending by schools:
It’s little wonder the public is becoming uneasy. High-school graduation rates are lower today than they were in 1970. The math and reading scores of 17-year-olds have been stagnant for four decades….
When asked how American 15-year-olds compare in math with students in 29 other industrialized nations, the public did not fool itself into believing that the U.S. is among the top five countries in the world. Those polled ranked the U.S. at No. 17, just a bit higher than the No. 24 spot the country actually holds.
In another sign of declining confidence, the public is less willing to spend more money on public education. In 1990, 70% of taxpayers favored spending “more on education,” according to a University of Chicago poll. In the latest poll, only 46% favored a spending increase. That’s a 15 percentage point drop from just one year ago when it was 61%.
But when it comes to actual dollars spent per pupil, Americans get the numbers wrong. Those polled by Education Next estimated that schools in their own districts spend a little more than $4,000 per pupil, on average. In fact, schools in those districts spend an average of $10,000. … When those surveyed are told how much is actually being spent in their own school district, only 38% say they support higher spending.