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ERIC Number: ED534121
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Aug
Pages: 44
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
How Americans Would Slim Down Public Education
Farkas, Steve; Duffett, Ann
Thomas B. Fordham Institute
With public school budgets pinched and educational demands rising, "business as usual" is becoming less and less tenable in American schools. Taxpayers, parents, teachers, principals, and students are expected to do more with fewer resources. But what's the best way to go about slimming down and shaping up the system of public education? Which cost-saving strategies trim the bottom line while safeguarding the interests of kids? Which might have a better chance of succeeding in the court of public opinion? This paper addresses these questions and more. The authors asked respondents to grapple with various cost-cutting measures and budgetary trade-offs that district leaders are facing in today's harsh economic climate. Results are based on 1,009 interviews conducted in March 2012 with a randomly selected, nationally representative sample of adults eighteen and older. (The statistical margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points). Key findings include: (1) The public is aware of the impact of the nation's economic challenges on their local public schools, and they don't believe things are going to get better any time soon. They are far more likely to think that solutions lie in cutting costs than in raising taxes or taking a wait-and-see approach. Yet the verdict is mixed on the schools' capacity to manage money efficiently; (2) The public approves a number of specific cost-cutting measures; (3) If teachers must be let go, however, their effectiveness should drive layoff decisions, even at the expense of losing seasoned instructors or increasing class size. Still, the public much prefers limiting class size in the core subject areas than in other subjects; (4) When it comes to budget cuts, special education is not immune as far as most Americans are concerned. That's not to say the commitment of Americans to educate children with special needs is waning--it's not. But they have concerns about the growth, cost, and effectiveness of serving these kids well; (Of eleven possible cost-cutting strategies that districts might deploy, just two were rejected by a majority of survey respondents: (1) By a 66 percent to 24 percent margin, the public rejects "shortening the school year by requiring employees to take unpaid days off"; (b) By a 70 percent to 23 percent margin, the public disapproves of "reducing non-teaching staff such as aides, librarians and school nurses to the bare minimum"; and (6) In three other areas, the public is split about cost cutting: charging fees for sports and extracurricular activities, utilizing non-certified teachers in certain subjects, and making more extensive use of virtual education. Appended are: (1) Methodology; and (2) Complete Survey Results. (Contains 14 figures and 9 endnotes.) [Foreword by Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Amber M. Winkler.]
Thomas B. Fordham Institute. 1701 K Street NW Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20006. Tel: 202-223-5452; Fax: 202-223-9226; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Tests/Questionnaires
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
Authoring Institution: Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Identifiers - Location: United States