Last week, the Wall Street Journal detailed a poll conducted by Education Next on whether the country should be spending more on public education. The Journal states that when asked whether education spending should increase, 65% of respondents say yes. However, that percentage drops significantly – by about half – when those polled were asked whether their own taxes should be increased to fund that increase.

This is not a terribly surprising result; you would be hard pressed to find anyone that doesn’t think, A, education should be better, and B, a free lunch is a good thing. The problem is that people tend to think more spending automatically equates to an improved education system. This is not the case.

In Texas, we’ve been increasing our education spending steadily over the last decade, with little to show for it on an academic front. So, perhaps another question the Education Next poll should have asked would have been “Do you favor increased education spending if it will not improve our academic performance?” I imagine that also would have put a dent in that 65% figure.

The United States, as a whole, needs to improve its performance in education. We’ve slipped in world education rankings, and we need to be back at the top if we are to remain the global leader we are today. However, improving this country’s education system is not as simple as spending more money it. We need innovation, competition, and flexibility to increase in our public schools, and none of that needs to increase the spending burden in our education sector. A final question, then, for those polled by Education Next – “Would you want to improve education in America at no cost to the taxpayer?” I have to think the yes votes would come in much higher than 65%.

– James Golsan