Survey Says . . . Missourians Dramatically Underestimate Education Spending
Today, Missouri lawmakers voted to override Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a tax cut bill. Immediately, opponents of the tax cut began decrying the legislature’s actions. They claim that this will lead to drastic cuts in education spending. First, it is important to note that these scare tactics are just that – scare tactics. On the Show-Me Daily blog, my colleague Michael Rathbone has shown how these predictions relied on cooking the books in order to come up with a loss of funds to education. With that said, it is important to understand why this type of scare tactic is so common and effective. To do that, you need look no further than the report that the Show-Me Institute and the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice released today.
We conducted a poll of Missouri voters and asked them a number of questions regarding school funding and school choice. When we asked participants how much they think we spend on each student per year, we found that the vast majority of Missourians have no idea. Seventy-two percent of Missouri voters either underestimated or were not even willing to guess how much Missouri spends in total expenditures per pupil. Approximately one-fifth of Missourians estimated that we spend less than $4,000 per pupil in current expenditures. In reality, we spend $9,400.
How does not knowing the facts allow for scare tactics to work? It’s simple. When people have more information, they are less likely to believe outlandish claims.
During the poll, we tested the impact of having spending information. We found that when individuals were told how much we spend on students, they were much less likely to say that spending is “too low.” There is room for honest debate in politics, even when it comes to education funding; but this debate should be based on the facts.