Californians Have Childish Views on Schools

Jeff Kravitz, Getty

Buried in a new survey on Californians’ attitudes about education is a chilling statistic that suggests too many of this state’s residents are losing faith in the future.

That statistic? The percentage of public school parents who say they are very confident they have the resources and information to help their child achieve their educational goals is on the decline, falling to 41 percent, according to the Public Policy Institute of California survey.

That pessimism about schools runs through the poll. Some 85 percent of Californians surveyed say the quality of education in K-12 public schools is a problem. And 62 percent of Californians believe public schools are not getting enough state funding—a percentage that is up 12 points from a similar survey in April 2009. More than 6 in 10 Californians also believe that the state’s budget cause will cause significant, new spending cuts in the schools.

But for all their concern, Californians remain a stingy lot. Less than half of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay more taxes to keep even the current amount of funding that they otherwise find so frustrating.

This “something for nothing” attitude among Californians – we want more money for schools but we don’t want to pay for it – is a big reason why this state is so difficult to govern. The other is the voters’ weak hold on reality. By every independent measure, California spends less per student than all but a handful of states. Nevertheless, only 37 percent of Californians in the PPIC survey believe the state’s per-pupil spending is below the national average.

PPIC’s sureys are sophisticated and comprehensive, with huge sample sizes (2,504 adults residents were interviewed here). So these polls should be taken seriously. Unfortunately, it’s far from clear that the views of Californians -- who know there's a problem but don't want to contribute to the solution -- deserve the same respect.


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