Poll: School Cuts Top Concern for Pennsylvania Voters
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HARRISBURG, PA (June 24, 2013) — Education and funding for public schools is a top concern among Pennsylvania voters, according to a new poll of Pennsylvania voters commissioned by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and Public Citizens for Children and Youth.
“Elected officials should carefully examine the fact that all voters, and especially women who vote, are as concerned about the cuts to public schools as they are about the economy,” said Donna Cooper, Executive Director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth. “That’s a remarkable change in public opinion and speaks to a very high level of public concern for what’s happening to our schools. Small funding increases that force up local property taxes to protect schools are not going to satisfy Pennsylvania voters.”
The poll finds Pennsylvania voters have a favorable impression of public schools, particularly those in their own neighborhood, and have serious concerns about cuts in school funding. Voters remain deeply concerned about schools even after hearing statements that education funding has increased and restoring more funding is unaffordable.
Majorities of those polled said they are willing to support increases in income or sales taxes to restore cuts to public schools and are more willing to do so if lawmakers hold off planned corporate tax reductions next year.
“Pennsylvanians are worried that our schools are in crisis,” said Sharon Ward, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. “Across the commonwealth, schools have had to increase class size, cut full day kindergarten, music and the arts, all changes that the public doesn’t like and would be willing to pay more to avoid.”
“With so many of our schools facing catastrophic cuts, now is not the time to enact new tax cuts for businesses.” said Cooper.
Nearly 8 in 10 (77%) voters are concerned about cuts in funding for public schools in Pennsylvania, with nearly half of all voters (48%) very concerned. Among women, the concern is even greater – 85% are concerned, including 55% who are very concerned.
By a 21-point margin, voters have a favorable impression of public schools in Pennsylvania (56% favorable, 35% unfavorable). Thinking about public schools in their own neighborhood, nearly 7 in 10 (69%) voters have a favorable impression.
Voters ranked education and funding for public schools (28%), along with economic development and jobs (27%), as top priorities for Gov. Corbett and the state Legislature to address. Among other issues, 15% identified healthcare as a top priority, and 13% taxes.
“The Governor and General Assembly are on safe ground with the public if they delay corporate tax cuts and make education funding a higher priority,” said Ward.
Pennsylvanians are willing to pay more to restore funding cuts to schools, the poll finds, a key point given voters’ sensitivity to taxes in the current economy,
A majority of voters, 55% to 36%, support a proposal that would include a small sales tax increase (raising the rate from 6% to 6.25%), combined with delaying a planned corporate tax cut. A plan to modestly increase the state income tax (from 3.07% to 3.3%) was favored by 54% to 36% opposed. Women supported both proposals even more strongly.
Even after hearing statements that education funding has increased and restoring more funding is unaffordable, voters prefer a statement in favor of restoring funding by 25 points over one that argues Pennsylvanians cannot afford to raise taxes.
“This poll clearly shows that voters realize that something needs to be done at the state level to fund our schools,” Cooper said. “It’s a top priority for voters, and it needs to be a top priority in the state legislature.”
Lake Research Partners conducted a telephone survey of 604 likely 2014 general election voters in Pennsylvania, on behalf of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and Public Citizens for Children and Youth. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 4% and was conducted June 19-23, 2013.