California voters are inclined to extend extra taxes on the state’s high-income residents to support public education and pass a new school construction bond issue, a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California has found.
Both issues are headed for November ballot via pending initiatives with unions, particularly the California Teachers Association, pressing the tax extension, and education groups and developers sponsoring the bond issue.
“Six in 10 Californians say that state government funding for their local schools is inadequate,” Mark Baldassare, PPIC’s president, said in an analysis of the poll. “In this election-year context, solid majorities favor a Proposition 30 tax increase extension and state and local school bonds.”
The PPIC poll found that 62 percent of likely voters favor extending, for 12 years, the higher income tax rates on those with taxable incomes of $250,000 or more. Gov. Jerry Brown sponsored the temporary tax hike, including a small boost in sales taxes, four years ago to close a yawning budget gap, but he has repeatedly refused to endorse its extension.
The tax increase generates about $7 billion a year and has played a key role in a more than 50 percent increase in K-12 school spending in the past five years.
The proposed $9 billion bond issue is favored by 63 percent of likely voters in the PPIC poll and has been endorsed by a bipartisan range of political figures – but not Brown. He has been critical of the state continuing to provide school construction funds, saying that the allocation system is unfair and the primary burden should shift back to local taxpayers.
Developers are pushing the bond issue because of a provision in current state law that allows local fees on residential and commercial projects to be increased sharply if the state’s school construction funds run dry, which is imminent.
PPIC’s latest poll focused on education issues, and its other findings include:
▪ Three-quarters of California adults support increased state spending on preschool programs, and nearly two-thirds prefer preschool spending to paying down debt and increasing budget reserves. Whether to increase preschool spending is a point of conflict between Brown, who proposes no increases, and Democratic legislators, who have made it a major goal this year.
▪ Just 40 percent of adults believe that education quality is a big problem, the lowest level of concern since PPIC began polling on the issue 18 years ago, and concerns about teacher quality are even lower, but a majority believes that a shortage of teachers is a big problem.
▪ While all adults are evenly divided on the value of Common Core, a new set of educational standards that California is implementing, there are sharp differences among ethnic and political subgroups. Latinos and Asians are most likely to support them, while whites and blacks are least likely. Democrats are more likely to support them than Republicans.
▪ Only 30 percent of adults have even heard of the Local Control Funding Formula, a massive overhaul of state school aid, enacted four years ago, that provides extra money for poor and/or “English learner” students to raise their achievement levels. And only a tiny percentage has been involved in developing the local plans to guide its spending.