Polling Shows Public Concerned About Impact of Further Budget Cuts on Education –
According to the poll, strong majorities of Californians (68%), likely voters (65%), and public school parents (74%) say the quality of K–12 education will suffer if cuts are made.
Governor Brown told the mostly friendly audience that he was their ally in the battle to protect education funding in the upheaval.
“It’s going to have to be the voice of the parents and teachers and yes, even the school students themselves, to awaken the conscience of California to our true path forward, which is to invest in the future and not steal from it,” the Governor said. “That’s really what’s at stake here.”
He argued that a ballot measure on the tax renewals was critical to the state future.
“It’s a choice that the people have a right to make. You can’t tell the people of California, ‘Shut up, we don’t want to hear from you,’ ” he said.
Governor Brown said that he would consider all alternatives, so long as it would get both sides talking again.
“I think that’s all a part of the discussion. I’m open to anything,” he said. “I put no preconditions to meeting with the Republican lawmakers. Anything they want, whether it’s pension reform, capping, regulatory form, I’m listening. Even agricultural issues, I’m listening.”
“Some of the Republicans, as recently as the night before last, said, ‘We’re going to get there.’ I’ve been speaking with these Republicans frequently, so within the last 48 hours I heard from a couple of them some very positive — but by no means definitive — comments,” he said.
The PPIC polls found that when Californians are read the major areas of state spending—K–12 public schools, health and human services, higher education, and prisons and corrections—57 percent most want to protect schools.
“Californians’ support for maintaining K–12 spending remains strong. It is a significant factor for the state’s leaders to take into account in any proposals that they put before voters this year,” says Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of PPIC. “Residents are worried about the toll that reduced spending is having on the quality of K–12 public education, and public school parents are noticing the impact of state budget cuts on their children’s schools.”
58% of Californians, including 56% of likely voters, believe that it is a good idea to hold a special election this year on the temporary tax and fee increases that Governor Jerry Brown has proposed to prevent additional budget cuts – that represents a small increase from March.
On the other hand, these results do not necessarily translate into support for the specifics of the governor’s plan. Solid majorities oppose increases in the state sales tax (61% all adults, 62% likely voters) or overall state personal income tax (62% all adults, 66% likely voters) to maintain funding for schools—both components of Brown’s proposal.
By contrast, 68% of adults and 62% of likely voters favor raising the top rate of the state income tax paid by the wealthiest Californians to maintain K–12 funding.
The poll also showed that teacher layoffs top the list of the public’s concerns about budget cuts.
According to the poll, when asked how the quality of public schools can be significantly improved, 43% of residents and 47% of likely voters say existing state funds need to be used more wisely. A similar 41% of residents and 42% of likely voters say funds need to be used more wisely and the amount of funding needs to be increased. Just 13% of adults and 9% of likely voters say that increasing state funding alone would significantly improve quality.
The poll also found that residents are most concerned about teacher layoffs (68%), but majorities are very concerned about the other areas as well: a shortened school year (56%), elimination of art and music programs (53%), and increased class sizes (52%).
“If the legislature or voters reject tax increases, K–12 public education—which accounts for about 40 percent of the state budget—would face cuts. Among the options that would provide the most cost savings, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), are eliminating funding for K–3 class-size reduction, ending the state requirement that students be provided with transportation to school, and requiring children to be 5 years old before starting kindergarten. (Plans are underway to move this date up from December 2 to September 1 in the future, but the LAO identified this as a way to save money in 2011-2012.),” the PPIC reported.
“Asked about these ideas,” the report continued, “a strong majority of Californians (77%) say eliminating funding for reducing K–3 class sizes is a bad idea, and 61 percent say the same about ending the transportation requirement. By contrast, 66 percent say changing the kindergarten age requirement is a good idea.”
The question on the minds of people locally is how these numbers will translate into support for Measure A. While there have been a number of missteps and a few overblown local controversies, it seems that support for education in this community remains strong.
—David M. Greenwald reporting