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Jeanne Schinto 8:30 a.m., May 19
The Public Policy Institute of California has just released a statewide survey gauging the opinions of Californians on public education and proposals to raise taxes.
On taxes, 65 percent of likely voters support the idea of raising taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents to fund public education, while 34 percent oppose the idea. But only 46 percent support raising state sales taxes for the same purpose, with 52 percent opposed.
The two taxes were originally floated independently, with Brown calling for a sales tax hike and a group backed largely by the California Federation of Teachers supporting what they called the Millionaires’ Tax. Last month the two proposals were combined, with Brown incorporating the increased income tax on high earners into his plan while cutting his proposed sales tax increase by half. The new combined measure is currently polling at 54 percent support and 39 percent opposition, despite Californians’ reluctance to back the sales tax component.
When breaking down the population, 75 percent of Democrats support the measure, while 65 percent of Republicans oppose it. Parents of children in public schools are largely supportive, by a margin of 60 percent to 36 percent.
If the tax increase fails to pass, Brown says automatic cuts to education will take place. Despite many of them failing to back the funding measures, a 78 percent majority of voters oppose any further cuts to education. K-12 level public schools still poll as the area in which Californians think is most important to avoid cuts, with 58 percent naming primary education as most important, 17 percent listing higher education, 15 percent health and human services, and seven percent saying funding prisons should take priority.
Nearly three in four voters think school budgets are a major problem, and 67 percent say the quality of public education as a whole is similarly lacking. But, when polled about the quality of their own local schools, a slight majority still awarded their local schools high rankings – 17 percent give their schools an A grade, 35 percent a B. Approval ratings were even higher when only parents who had children in those schools were included, with 24 percent of parents giving their schools an A grade and 36 assigning a B.
Possibly refuting the value of these numbers, only 27 percent of Californians polled were aware that the state spends less per pupil and returns lower test scores on average than most of the other 49 states and the District of Columbia.
Also covered in the poll were questions relating to Brown’s approval rating, which, at 47 percent approval and 40 percent disapproval, has stayed mostly flat in recent months. On his handling of the K-12 education situation, however, Brown scores much lower, meriting only a 23 percent approval versus a 54 percent disapproval.