From Teacher Pay to School Budgets, Ed Policy Is Often Based on Public Perception. But How Much Do People Really Know?

Mike Antonucci:

These and other commonly held beliefs are part of the conventional wisdom of American public life. If you don’t think so, experiment by arguing the opposite on social media. But that’s not what I want to do here.

The question isn’t whether any of these statements is right or wrong, but what people actually know about those issues.

Americans are continually polled on all sorts of matters, but rarely are they asked to demonstrate their knowledge of the topic upon which they are being asked their opinion. On the occasions when it happens, we learn something important about how new knowledge sways opinions.

Like many organizations and media outlets, Education Next conducts an annual survey of public opinion on school-related issues. Unlike most organizations and media outlets, the publication includes one unique and laudable twist to a couple of questions.

On queries regarding teacher salaries and school spending in its 2021 survey, respondents were split into two equally sized, randomly selected groups. One half was told the current levels of teacher pay and school spending in their area; the other was not.

Fifty-seven percent of the uninformed group wanted increased school spending, and 67 percent wanted higher teacher salaries.

Support in the informed group was 39 percent and 53 percent, respectively.