A February survey of Washington voters by The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice indicates that voters there are much less likely to favor increased spending on K-12 education once they know how much money their state already spends.
Almost one-fifth (19%) of survey participants correctly identified their state’s per-student funding level: According to the survey, Washington spent $9,688 per student in 2008-9. About half (46%) thought the state spent $8,000 or less.
The survey asked if Washingtonians thought public school funding is too low. One subgroup was asked if they thought funding was too low before being told what the actual level was. Of those people, 56% said that public school funding is “too low.” But the other subgroup was told what Washington spends before being asked their opinion of the funding level. Of respondents who knew that Washington already spends about $10,000 per child, only 42% thought Washington’s education spending was “too low” – effectively a 25% reduction.
More than half of Washingtonians surveyed (52%) think K-12 education in their state is on the “wrong track.” Only 31% think it’s going in the “right direction.” But when Washington voters know how much money their state already spends per child, they are far less likely to think the problem with K-12 education is funding than when they don’t know. Policymakers, politicians, and education lobbyists should take care when blaming problems in K-12 education on funding. When voters know the truth, they aren’t convinced the problem is money.
Kathryn Hickok is Publications Director at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.