Fear of teacher layoffs and other cuts to public schools is leading a majority of Californians to support some combination of spending cuts and taxes in order to close the state's $26 billion budget gap, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll released today.
A majority of likely voters – 61 percent – support the general framework of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to fill the budget hole with a combination of spending cuts and new revenues. But the poll also shows an electorate that is still very divided over what those revenues should be.
A majority of adults opposes raising sales and income taxes, but more than two-thirds of adults support raising taxes on the state's wealthiest earners.
A majority also said they would support local bond measures to pay for school construction projects, and 59 percent said they would support local parcel taxes in order to help fund schools. Since Proposition 26 passed last year, new taxes and fees must now be passed with a two-thirds vote, leaving support for parcel taxes well short of the required threshold.
"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," institute President and CEO Mark Baldassare said in a statement. "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."
The poll, which was funded by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (also a major donor to California Watch), focuses largely on parents' attitudes toward education in the state.
Among other things, it seems to show that voters are supportive of school reform measures. A majority of Californians said they believe teacher salaries should be tied to performance – a rallying cry for school reformers that has been picking up momentum in other states.
The poll also shows that voters overwhelmingly prefer having local control over their schools. That view fits closely with Brown's desire to give local governments more control over critical services – perhaps one reason why his approval rating rose to 40 percent in this poll from 34 percent last month.