Confidence in public education at abysmally low levels

It's probably not going to come as a major surprise to conservatives that the American public's confidence in, and satisfaction from, public education is at horrendously low levels – especially given the massive amounts of tax dollars that flow into this system.

Gallup has been monitoring how satisfied the public is regarding the quality of education students are receiving in the K-12 grades since 1999.  Consistently over this period, more respondents have indicated they are dissatisfied than satisfied.

In August 2014, only 9 percent said the were "completely satisfied," a level that has been unchanged over the last 15 years, compared to about 20 percent who now say they are "completely dissatisfied."

On the more general topic of public education as a whole, 30 percent are "very dissatisfied," versus around 10 percent who are "very satisfied."

As a response to this high level of dissatisfaction, homeschooling is on the rise.  In 1999, one percent of parents indicated they were homeschooling their child.  Over the last few years, this proportion has increased to 3 to 4 percent.

Overwhelming support exists for religion in and around the public school system.  More than three quarters of those surveyed are in favor of making public-school facilities available after school hours for use by student religious groups.  Over 60 percent are in favor of allowing daily prayer to be spoken in the classroom, and 75 percent are in favor of allowing students to say prayers at graduation ceremonies as part of the official program.  These levels of support have remained approximately constant since 1999.

As of the latest available data in 2005, 76 percent were in favor of "a constitutional amendment to allow voluntary prayer in public schools," a concept that has maintained this high level of support since polling began in the early 1980s.

More than half of respondents (54 percent) support the teaching of creationism in public schools.  Only 22 percent oppose creationism in the classroom.  A reasonably high level of support (43 percent) also exists for teaching intelligent design in public schools, with low opposition (21 percent).

Between 60 and 63 percent think religion has "too little of a presence in public schools."  Only about 10 percent feel there is too much religion in the school system.

When it comes to confidence in the public school system, data is available back to 1973.

In 1973, 30 percent of respondents expressed a "great deal" of confidence in public schools.  Only 9 percent said they had "very little" confidence, and 27 percent indicated they had just "some" confidence in the system.

Fast-forward to 2014, where now we see only 12 percent of respondents having a great deal of confidence in public schools, while 28 percent have very little confidence and 42 percent have only some confidence.

The past four decades have witnessed confidence in the public school system evaporate.  In 1973, 58 percent of those surveyed had either a great deal or "quite a lot" of confidence in the system.  Today, these categories total just 26 percent.  On the other hand, the proportion of those who have either very little or only some confidence has increased from 36 percent in 1973 to 70 percent in 2014.

Public schools fare very poorly when compared to the alternatives.  Independent private schools, parochial schools, charter schools, and homeschooling all garner much higher levels of confidence than public schools.

When asked "what would be the best way to improve kindergarten through 12th grade education in the U.S. today?," the top two answers by a large margin were to hire better-quality teachers and to get education back to the basics ("reading, writing, arithmetic").

Value for money is not being obtained, and the public knows it.