Want better schools? CA must be willing to pay

150 150 Gina Baleria

A new study from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) finds that Californians agree the state’s public schools are suffering, and they want something to be done about it. But, they don’t want to foot the bill themselves.

Sonja Petek, policy associate and survey project manager at the PPIC, said the annual survey found “widespread support for raising income taxes on the wealthy, but more opposition to raising sales taxes.”

This year’s survey focused heavily on fiscal issues, given the economy and the prospect of multiple tax measures on the November ballot. And, Patek said there is always opposition to new taxes, but it has softened over time. In addition, people seem to want more local control.

“There is very strong support for giving these local districts more flexibility to spend state funds,” she said. “Majorities expressed at least some confidence that their local schools could spend this money wisely.”

But, very few people think money alone is the solution. “Less than 10 percent, in fact, say that increasing funding would be the answer to improving quality.”

“Forty-four percent of Californians believe schools need to use the funding they already have more wisely, and the same share say they need both more funding and to use the money more wisely,” Petek said. “They think schools don’t have enough money, but residents want assurances that this money is going to be spent well and go to the improvements that they want.”

There was also support in the PPIC survey for giving more money to schools with low-income students, but it is unclear whether that is at the expense of other districts or from some new pot of funding. 

As for looking at California schools in comparison to other states, two-thirds of survey respondents erroneously believed California’s education system ranked on the high end of the scale compared to other states. It is actually well below average compared to other states in per pupil spending.

“One finding we have found consistently over time is that there is a lack of understanding among Californians about state spending areas,” Petek said. “In this survey, we again find that education is the area people most want to protect from state budget cuts. In other surveys, most people say they think the bulk of state spending goes to prisons and corrections, when in fact most of the money does go to K-12 public education.”

Of the 2,000 people surveyed, 620 currently have kids in public school. But, whether the survey respondent had a school-aged child or not, education issues were important.

Gina Baleria is a communications manager for California Forward


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