Wednesday, August 29, 2012

It’s the Money, Stupid, Not the Teachers

The results are in from the latest public opinion poll on teachers. According to the 44th annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of public attitudes toward the public schools, 71% of respondents say they have trust and confidence in the nation's teachers. 43% of parents and 35% of Americans in general say money is the biggest issue, up from 17% in 2002.

While it is heartening to know that two-thirds of respondents are willing to pay higher taxes to improve the schools, it also shows a lack of understanding about the main causes of the  achievement gap and other K-12 education problems: high poverty among the students and low taxes for the wealthy. The former is the main cause of low student achievement. The latter is the main cause for shrinking school budgets.

Increasing property and income taxes would certainly add more money to state and local budgets that could be used for schools. However, to actually end the yearly uncertainty over education budgets and provide the kind of surplus necessary to shrink class sizes, increase course offerings, renovate dilapidated facilities, hire adequate nurses and librarians, and provide the quality that parents really desire, there will have to be substantial tax increases on the wealthy, including large increases in capital gains and inheritance taxes, in contrast to nominal income and sales tax increases that would disproportionately impact middle and lower income families, as proposed in California’s Proposition 30.

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