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Informed Opinions about Spending on Education and Teacher Salaries

- June 1, 2009

bq. …if the public is given accurate information about what is currently being spent on public schools, their support for increased spending and confidence that more spending will improve student learning both decline. And they find that knowing how much the average teacher earns lowers support among the general public for salary increases.

That’s from research by William Howell and Martin West, digested here.

Some details:

bq. …The average per-pupil spending estimate from respondents to the 2008 Education Next/PEPG survey was $4,231, and the median response was just $2,000; but for these respondents, local average spending per pupil at the time exceeded $10,000. When told how much the local schools were spending, support for increased spending dropped by 10 percentage points, from 61 percent to a bare majority of 51 percent…

bq. …As with per-pupil expenditures, the public significantly underestimates how much their states pay public school teachers. On average, Education Next/PEPG survey respondents underestimated average teacher salaries in their state by more than $14,000, nearly one-third of the actual average salaries of $47,000. When asked directly, 69 percent of the public supported increasing teacher salaries. African Americans and teachers appeared most enthusiastic about increasing teacher salaries, with roughly 9 out of 10 endorsing the idea. When provided with the facts, support among the general public decreased by 14 percent.

Even more interesting: teachers responded similarly to the correct information.

[Hat tip to Eric Lawrence.]

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