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June 15, 2013

Inconvenient Educational Truths

Steve Prestegard:

The new money added to the K-12 system by 2010 equaled $4,714/pupil. Given public school enrollment of 872,000 students that year, Wisconsin taxpayers had provided public schools with a spending windfall of more than $4.1 billion a year by the time Governor Walker took office. So much for being "oblivious."

Wisconsin journalists have failed to report this history. Further, they have failed to explain adequately that much of the new spending has not reached the classroom. Instead, it has gone to pension, health care, and other fringe benefits. Where such costs once equaled about a quarter of teacher salaries, in many school districts that share now exceeds fifty per cent. In the Milwaukee Public Schools, the meteoric rise in fringe benefits is the principal reason for reductions in education programming that have been part of recent budgets. ...

The overall journalistic failure has predictable consequences when it comes to public opinion. In scientific polling, scholars at Harvard University have found that the public is clueless when it comes to public school spending and levels of teacher compensation.

These scholars have reported their findings in the respected journal Education Next. They find that the average citizen has a "wildly inaccurate" understanding of school finance. For example, "...[w]e asked respondents to estimate average per-pupil expenditures within their local school district and the average teacher salaries in their states...[W]e discovered that those surveyed, on average, underestimated per-pupil expenditures by more than half and teacher salaries by roughly 30 percent..."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at June 15, 2013 12:19 AM
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