Californians divided over paying higher taxes to prevent painful cuts in public education

A poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California and released on April 28, found that while Californians have become increasingly concerned about cuts to K-12 education, they remain wary of paying higher taxes to fund what is needed to prevent those cuts. 

Californians today are more likely to believe that funding for their local schools is inadequate, and parents who send their children to public schools believe that the state budget cuts have had a big effect on their children’s schools.  Among ethnic groups, Blacks and Whites are far more likely to believe that the quality of education is a problem as compared to Asians and Hispanics.  Blacks and Hispanics are much more likely than Whites to be worried about the quality of education. 

Californians also want education to be protected from spending cuts and believe gubernatorial candidates’ positions on education are important.  Despite this all of these concerns, Californians are split on whether to pay higher taxes to restore the cuts.

Here are some highlights from the poll:

    •    62 percent believe there is not enough state funding going to their public schools, a 12 point increase since April 2009, while 26 percent believe there is just enough, 6 percent more than enough.

    •    62 percent say they are very concerned the state’s budget gap will cause significant spending cuts in K–12 education, up 6 points since last year.

    •    Among public school parents, 43 percent say their children’s schools have been affected a lot by recent state budget cuts, 15 points higher than a year ago. Another 38 percent say their schools have been affected somewhat, and only 17 percent say they have seen no effect.

    •    63 percent want to protect K–12 education from spending cuts.

    •    Nearly all Californians believe that the position on education among candidates who are running for governor is important, yet when broken down by party, 72 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of independents believe candidates’ positions on education are important as compared to only 46 percent of Republicans.

    •    Blacks (68 percent) and whites (60 percent) today are far more likely than Asians (48 percent) and Latinos (41 percent) to see education quality as a big problem.

    •    49 percent support paying higher taxes to maintain current funding and 47 percent do not.

With state education dollars more than 60 percent of the state’s budget, this poll reflects two issues that will make tackling the state’s budget crisis and education funding nearly impossible. 

First, until people perceive that the crisis affects them personally, there is little concern for the impact it is having on the rest of the state. 

Second, despite recognition of the crisis, nearly half of Californians are unwilling to pay higher taxes. 

Until the state can raise sufficient resources, we will likely see these numbers spike long before there is any real reform.