The latest Gallup polls measuring Americans’ confidence in the nation’s institutions have been released, and the news is not good. Newspapers, banks, and small businesses all took a hit, while gains for the Congress, the Presidency, and the criminal justice system were relatively minor. One of the largest drops was for public schools. According to the poll, confidence in public schools has dropped five percentage points in the past year to 29 percent, a historic low since the question was first asked in the early 1970s.
That number has been in a long, slow slide for the past forty years:
This decline is alarming but understandable. With each passing year it becomes increasingly clear that the big-box school model that carried America through much of the 20th century is no longer working. School expenditures have increased even as performance has declined or stagnated, and international comparisons consistently show America falling short relative to other developed nations. Meanwhile, across the country, parents who can afford it are pulling their children out of highly bureaucratized public schools and putting them into private ones where they can at least have some influence in the shape of their children’s education. Small wonder that public schools are losing the support of the public they were created to serve.
The solution, as we have remarked before, is a decentralized system that puts more power into the hands of parents and teachers. This would work wonders to restore people’s confidence in our schools as a whole.