Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Are Schools Adequately Funded?

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Are Schools Adequately Funded?

Article excerpt

Six in 10 parents and all adults, and 75% of teachers, say their community's schools have too little money. Blacks especially say so--73%, compared with 57% of Whites. It's a view that's much more prevalent among Democrats than Republicans (72% vs. 45%) and liberals compared with conservatives (75% vs. 42%). (Sixty-four percent of moderates and 57% of independents also say their schools are underfunded.)

Even among the best-off Americans, those in $i00,000-plus households, 54% see their schools as underfunded. But that rises to 64% of those with incomes less than $50,000.

Further, in an open-ended question, 25% of all adults say inadequate financial support is the biggest problem facing the public schools today. It's far and away the top-cited problem, with all other responses in the single digits. Among teachers, even more--36%--call lack of funding the schools' biggest problem.

This is the 18th straight year in which lack of funding has led the PDK poll's biggest-problem list. That's largely a shift from the 1970s and early 1980s when discipline was seen as the schools' top problem, supplanted by concerns about drugs in the mid-1980s to 1990 and a mix of these issues in the 1990s.

The shifts over time are striking. In the first PDK poll in 1969, 26% called discipline the schools' top problem, compared with 6% today. At its peak in 1990, 38% called drugs the main problem vs. just 3% today. And in the aftermath of the Great Recession, in 2010 and 2011 alike, 36% called school funding the biggest problem. That's stayed high; today's 25% compares with a prerecession average of 16%.

It follows that about two-thirds of parents and all adults, rising to 85% of teachers, say they're more apt to support a candidate for political office who favors increased school funding. Forty-one percent of all adults call a candidate's position on school funding highly important to them; that rises to 55% of parents and jumps to 75% of teachers. That said, many fewer in each group say it's "extremely" important, potentially limiting its effect on voting.

There are, again, strong political differences. Democrats overwhelmingly say they're more likely to back a candidate who supports additional funding (80%), compared with independents (60%) and Republicans (43%). (In all cases, most of the rest say they'd support a candidate who wants to maintain current funding rather than making cuts.) Democrats (53%) also are more apt than independents (38%) or Republicans (30%) to see a candidate's position on the issue as highly important.

These patterns largely hold up for parents, but teachers of all political stripes are more likely than non-teachers to back higher school funding and to see it as important.

Supporting higher funding doesn't necessarily mean supporting higher taxes. Given a choice, 7 in 10 or more parents and all adults say they'd rather see cuts in other government-funded programs rather than raise taxes to provide more school funding. Sixty-one percent of teachers agree.

Using lotteries for educational funding is a great justifiable use of the taxes. Finally, a way gambling is useful!

Kyle, 33, White father of a 1st grader in an upstate New York suburb

A potential tax increase is generally unpopular, with the notable exception of liberals, among whom 47% find it preferable to making cuts. …

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