In Terry Moe (ed.)
A Primer on American Education
Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press
Public opinion generally supports the conclusion that our public schools face serious problems. Common views, supported by a variety of media stories about poor performance of students, provide the backdrop for much of school policy. But, even if concern about schools is a prevalent view, the precise causes of problems are less clear. Some hold that student preparation for schools—resulting from increasing family problems, more immigrants, more poverty, or whatever—has declined over time, leading to falls in student performance. Others hold that support for schools has fallen. Budgets are turned down; pressures to lower taxes take precedence over schools; an increasingly older population has less interest in schooling. And, to the extent that teachers or other personnel contribute to any problems, it is poor pay and lack of resources that make teaching an undesirable occupation. In short, resources are the key, either directly to deal with the needs of schools or indirectly to compensate for the poorer preparation of students. Unfortunately, these common conceptions—oft-repeated in the press, in legislatures, and even in courtrooms—are for the most part simply wrong. Resource support for schools has been high, and the problems of performance—which are real—result from other forces.