K-12 Funding Levels Surprise Washington Voters

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.

  • Bob Clark

    If I recall correctly, the average total compensation package for a Portland Public Schools teacher now approaches $100k per year; and public education administrators and consultants make significantly more.  Compensation is probably not too much differenct in Washington state schools.  So, there’s a pretty above average life to be made in education, maybe a little too much compared to real (free) market value.  Technology and automation tends to bring about needed competition when barriers to entry are artificially raised like in the case of public employee unions and government imposed restrictions on education.  One of the groups who suffer from the suffocating public education bureaucracy is the folks with teaching degrees and other teaching skills and proclivity who are denied easy entry into the education industry.

    • Educationman

      100K is hardly a living wage in Portland. They should make as much as doctors and lawyers at the least. They have to go to school to learn so much and take so many classes and then they have to work so hard each and every day. Think about it.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    I can tell you this is quite true. Most of my friends tend to be very liberal and the “more money for education” response is almost a genetic reflex. To challenge this is considered ridiculous. I find that very often if I ask a person the per pupil spending in round numbers, they have no idea. I then will ask if doubling that spending would be enough money and if we would get better results. Of course they say.

    Not true, and we know this because we did double per pupil education spending, in constant dollars, since the late 70’s. We spend twice as much per pupil as we did then. Anyone want to argue we are getting better results?

    “Well – I just think that education is vastly underfunded. I believe in the “”when the military has to hold a bake sale and schools get all the funding they need….” bumper sticker”

    It’s good they do believe in that. Because education spending is in fact about what we spend on our military. The thing is our military is the best in the world. When you call, someone tends to pick up the phone. That’s as it should be, we spend more on the military than anyone else.

    We also spend more per pupil than anyone else except Switzerland.

    Anyone want to argue we are getting our money’s worth? Because I can tell you, for all our excessive military funding we have some kick ass planes, some really cool aircraft carriers, amazing submarines, and incredibly well trained troops.

    When I look a tthe schools do I see anything like that? Nope. I don’t see best in the world students. I dont see buildings that even look well maintained. I sure see some very well paid teachers and staff though. No problem on the funding there.

    $500 toilet seats for the military might seem like a lot, but at least they tend to accomplish their mission.

    Our schools might not have $500 toilet seats, but they sure as hell have $100k janitors who install $20 seats.

    We should be expecting more from our schools with the money they have. We have been throwing money at them for the last 30 years. Its time to take a different approach.

    • Ardbeg


      If you want to see the actual salary schedule 35-71K plus benefits

      Janitors are $12-$22 and contracted out so I guess limited benefits

      • Rupert in Springfield

        Trust me, I am well aware of what we spend on schools. If you are going to argue it’s not enough you won’t have a leg to stand on. Fair warning.

        • 3H

          Are you asserting that there are $100K/yr janitors working for the school system?  Is that an average?  An outlier?  

          • Ardbeg

            You can look up their pay scale, it tops out at $22. Just R in S talking about stuff he won’t bother to look up.  Same with the teacher salary- 35-71 K doesn’t average out even with bennies to 100k? He continues to throw out crazy numbers and rail against one profession.  Why police and firemen are never included as public employes I don’t know. 

          • Rupert in Springfield

            You are seriously contending that no janitor makes over $100k? You really are contesting that?

            Colour me incredulous.

          • 3H

            Working for the public school system?  I would be very surprised.  And if there was such a janitor, I would think that is was the exception rather than the rule.

            ‘Cause I just don’t see it in Oregon.


            Where do your 100k janitors work?  What school system?   New York?  Some other locale with a higher cost of living?  Do you think the nationwide average is anywhere close to 100k?

          • Ardbeg

            If you have some information to show otherwise let me know. Their salary schedule is on-line and it tops out a $22 an hour. I think (not positive) that PPS contracts out for janitors. Meaning no PERS and probably limited benefits. Rupert-show me otherwise and I’ll admit I am wrong. But if you can’t, then at least try to keep the discussion as factual as possible.

        • Ardbeg

          I would prefer a discussion instead of an argument but maybe that says something about you. Also your ‘leg to stand on’ comment is typical, once again you know everything so why should anyone bother.  I gave you a website easily found on the intranet to counter your 100K average and your 100k janitor. Who in their right mind thinks a janitor for a public school makes $100,000? Let’s see, 22 an hour x 40 hrs is $880 a week X 50 weeks is $44,000. Plus, I don’t know if janitors work during the summer, so that 44K is a max amount. Do some teachers make 100K? Those with a Masters degree plus 45 additional credits and enough years of experience do when you add in benefits. That’s certainly is not the average. If your going to throw out numbers as part of your argument at least be accurate. How are your legs doing?

          • Rupert in Springfield

             Yawn – re read, I never said the average was $100k.

            Nice try though.

            >Who in their right mind thinks a janitor for a public school makes $100,000?

            Quite a few news outlets apparently. If you Google it you will find plenty of sources. NBC for one.

            >Do some teachers make 100K?

            Yes – Oh my God where the hell ave you been on this issue? This was a huge story during the teachers union strike with Scott Walkers collective bargaining flare up.

            >How are your legs doing?

            As predicted, quite well.

            I think your first mistake was when you tried to claim I said the average janitor makes $100k. I never said that, so that was your mistake number one.

            After that it was downhill. When you revealed you had no knowledge of janitors making $100k the jig was pretty much up.

            Lets face it, when its a widely reported story and you say “who in their right mind thinks ….. ” you have revealed that person probably knows more about the issue than you do.

            In short you  proved my point. You were unaware of a majorly reported story, I was, and thats why I warned that if you were going to challenge me on this you wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.

            I think you are pretty much done here. But I thank you for such a definitive QED moment.


          • 3H

            LOL.. you like the “you’re pretty much done here” line don’t you.  How come you’re never done?   Why weren’t you done when you repeated twice your assertion that the Democrats received more donations from Wall Street than Republicans?  

          • Ardbeg

            First, your right (man that was harder to say than I thought)-I was wrong on the average thing. That was from another post.  Other than that your more clueless than ever. Back to your ridiculous statement that Janitors make 100k. Is there a janitor “somewhere” that makes a 100k? Maybe? Don’t know and don’t really care about ‘someone’ ‘somewhere’. Is there one in Oregon or Washington which is what this post and the subsequent discussion has been about? No Rupert, there isn’t. Sorry, there just are not.  Yes, yes Rupert your going to remind of the NY janitor that made more than the teachers, I already know.  I don’t know if you remember that story but it’s ‘working evenings and weekends’ that got all that extra salary. God forbid someone actually work hard and get paid for it.  Your going to use the most extreme outlier to make your point? That right there is the monkey in the wrench for you. Your exact words if I may “Our schools might not have $500 toilet seats, but they sure as hell have $100k janitors who install $20 seats.” So are back to talking about ‘our’ schools? Show me even one janitor in ‘our’ schools that make 100k. Go ahead…..show me one, just one example. You can’t! There isn’t a janitor in as you said ‘our schools’ that makes 100k.

          • 3H

            When he said “our” he meant the United States.   He prefers the talk-radio style of discussion.  Belittle and demean people who disagree with him.  Find outrageous examples that aren’t representative of anything – because they are anomalies.  And a self-love of his own voice.  If you notice, he doesn’t actually enjoy discussion, but he does seem to enjoy lecturing and pontificating.  That is why you frequently see post starting with “No one seriously…”; “I can’t believe anyone….”; “You’re done here..”.  All rhetorical flourishes intended to marginalize and demean people who disagree with him.  The fact that sometimes, even frequently, he has his facts wrong does not seem to make him take pause and consider how that makes him look when he treats others the way he does when they are wrong.  LOL.. he even seems puzzled and unhappy by the tenor of the responses he gets.  I don’t think he sees his role in it at all.

          • Ardbeg

            That’s rupe in a NUTshell.

  • SolidGOP

    If people don’t like what we spend on education, they can LEAVE and move to some Third World country, like Texas.

    We pay teachers $100,000 per year (including benefits) BECAUSE WE CARE about the children.  We need our teachers to feel appreciated, and face it, we can ALL spare the money – which really isn’t that much when you make everyone chip in.

    • Educationman

      Finally, someone who I can agree with.

  • Educationman

    Whatever we spend it is simply not enough. Everyone knows this. Look at all the kids who never even graduate. They don’t because we don’t fund their education enough. Simple as that. More money = more graduates.