States

Gauging Public Opinion on Tax Hikes for Schools? Good Luck

By Sean Cavanagh — November 29, 2011 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A couple recent polls out of Pennsylvania and California—two states that have made significant cuts in K-12 spending—appear to show a public willing to pay more in taxes to stave off future budget reductions.

But how much can be gleaned from those polls? Voters aren’t always as eager to support tax hikes for education as they claim to be in the abstract.

The public’s opinion of new public money going to education will likely be tested on lots of fronts in 2012, as ballots fill up with state and local measures asking voters to increase the revenue flow. And arguments about government spending on schools and other services could prove a crucial issue for many candidates for governor and the legislature around the country, particularly in states where the budget ax has fallen on education.

In Pennsylvania, 38 percent of state residents said boosting state funding for education and improving schools should be a top priority for state officials, according to a poll released recently by the Education Policy and Leadership Center. Education came in second, behind only job creation, out of seven categories. (The center advocates for adequate and equitable funding, among its other goals.)

And in California, 64 percent of state residents polled said they would favor increasing taxes for schools, with 32 percent opposed, according to a poll released by the University of Southern California, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, and the Los
Angeles Times
. Residents also appear to be taking notice of the pain schools are absorbing. Asked what changes they’ve seen at their children’s and grandchildren’s schools as a result of budget cuts, 60 percent pointed to higher class sizes; large numbers also said they had been asked to purchase more school supplies on their own, and many said they’ve seen a loss of arts and after-school programs.

But before you consider those numbers as proof of voters’ appetite to spend money on schools, remember recent events in Colorado.

Earlier this month, voters in the political swing state thoroughly rejected a ballot item that would have raised an estimated $3 billion for schools over five years. Observers on both sides of the issue said that ongoing state and national economic woes almost certainly pulled many voters into the “no” column—despite many accounts of the impact of recent school budget shortfalls.

Opponents of tax hikes for schools are most likely to pound away at similiar arguments next year, contending that states and households can’t afford to have more money taken out of their pockets during these difficult economic times.

It’s also safe to assume that voters’ opinions on tax hikes for schools will be shaped over the coming year, at least to some degree, by the arguments put forward by governors and legislators, pro- and con-.

And now I’ll ask for your prognostications: Is the idea of raising taxes for schools a winning one or a recipe for political defeat in 2012?

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

States Bill to Restrict How Race and Racism Is Taught in Schools Headed to Texas Governor
If the "critical race theory" bill sounds familiar, that's because lawmakers passed a similar one during the regular legislative session.
Eleanor Dearman, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
4 min read
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference in Austin, Texas, on June 8, 2021.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference in Austin, Texas, on June 8, 2021.
Eric Gay/AP
States Infographic Which States Are Reporting COVID-19 Cases in Schools?
Some states are reporting the number of COVID-19 cases in their schools and districts. Use this table to find your state's data.
Image shows the coronavirus along with data charts and numbers.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
States From Our Research Center Map: A-F Grades, Rankings for States on School Quality
Here’s a map showing grades for all the states on this year’s Quality Counts summative report card, on which the nation gets a C overall.
EdWeek Research Center
1 min read
Illustration of students reading with pie chart.
Getty
States Nation Gets a 'C' on Latest School Quality Report Card, While N.J. Again Boasts Top Grade
A slight increase in this year's Quality Counts score isn't enough to boost the nation's school system above last year's middling grade.
8 min read
Illustration of students reading with pie chart.
Getty