Americans are becoming increasingly skeptical of the U.S. public school system, revealing near-record low confidence in schools.
According results released this week from a Gallup poll conducted last month, 34 percent of those surveyed said they have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in public schools. The number is unchanged from last year through controversial policies and political battles regarding legislation and budgets.
Confidence in public schools ranks eighth among 16 confidence categories that Gallup studies. Public schools confidence closely follows the presidency -- with 35 percent surveyed saying they had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the presidency -- and falls in the middle of top-contender the military and the lowest confidence-breeding Congress, at 12 percent.
The current level of confidence in public schools is also a departure from the 58 percent confidence rating Gallup surveyed in 1974 and less than the 41 percent in 2004.
Many school systems got a lifeline in 2009 when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act directed about $100 billion to help fund public education and save teachers' jobs. Americans' confidence in U.S. public schools did trend somewhat higher that year, to 38 percent, but not enough to be statistically meaningful. Now, with stimulus funding running out this year, many education programs and jobs are again at risk.
Younger Americans proved to be more confident in public schools than older Americans, and those surveyed who carry a college degree or have had some college education were less confident in the public school system than those with a high school diploma or less.
American confidence in public schools could fall further if more funding is slashed from education budgets, Gallup reports.
To name a few, Detroit Public Schools is facing major budget cuts, including pay cuts and reduced staff, in a proposed 2012 budget last month. San Francisco slashed $113 million from its education budget last year and faces an additional $20 million in further cuts this year.
But Wednesday in D.C., U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan defended the Education Department's request for a 13.3 percent budget increase over 2011.