Public Opinion and the Public Schools: Three Essays on Americans’ Education Policy Preferences
David Houston

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Teachers College, Columbia University

Primary Discipline

In the relationship between education and democracy, we often think of schools as the cradle of democratic values: the common meeting ground where social responsibility, civic-mindedness, and tolerance are instilled in the next generation. But the link between education and democracy goes both ways. Schools do not just cultivate democratic values; they are also the product of democratic pressures. Popularly elected governors, state legislatures, mayors, city councils, and school boards determine education budgets and appoint top school administrators. Voters themselves often decide the fate of school funding levies directly. Like all public endeavors in a democratic society, public schooling is built upon and reflects democratic systems. The public schools are ultimately accountable to the people to whom they belong.This dissertation addresses three questions about Americans’ education policy preferences:1. To what extent are state school systems’ per pupil expenditures responsive to the education spending preferences of their citizens?2. How are such preferences formed and updated with the availability of new and relevant information? 3. In an era of increasing political polarization, why do we tend to see relatively small partisan differences on issues of education compared to issues in other high-profile policy domains?Over the course of three article-length papers, my dissertation seeks to find an empirical foothold in each of these large and unwieldy debates
About David Houston
David M. Houston is a Ph.D. candidate in Politics and Education and the Instructor of Quantitative Methods for Evaluating Education Policies and Programs at Teachers College, Columbia University. His current research focuses on public opinion and education policy: the extent to which education spending levels reflect education spending preferences at the state level, how individuals update their opinions on education issues when they learn new information, and how the rise in political polarization translates to the context of education policy.He received a B.A. in English Literature and Anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis in 2010 and an M.S.Ed. in Childhood Education from Hunter College, City University of New York in 2012. Before beginning his doctoral studies, he taught first and second grade in Queens, New York.

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