Here’s what is missing in the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll on education: a test of the respondents knowledge on education funding. It is an understandable reaction to respond to questions about improving schools by adding more funding. That is generally what PPIC got in its new k-12 education poll. But, the reaction measured in the poll is not graded against how much is actually spent on schools and what voters know about state spending priorities.
Previous PPIC polls make this clear. While school funding takes the lion’s share of state funding, PPIC has annually found that fewer than 1 in 5 voters know that to be true. The greater response is that prisons get the most money. If voters don’t know how the state doles out money, what value is it to ask how much more should be spent by any government department?
Of course, those receiving the school funds probably don’t mind that voters are unaware of the state’s funding priorities. If voters don’t think schools are on top of the heap and they believe that schools deserve to be funded ahead of all other programs, then the voters are more likely to support funding and tax increases for schools.
PPIC found that 64% of adults and 66% of likely voters think that state funding for public schools is inadequate. Half of adults think additional funding and better use of current dollars are necessary to improve education.
Voters tested by the poll expressed willingness to support local school parcel taxes and construction bonds. Yet, they were not so eager to make it easier to pass parcel taxes for schools by lowering the two-thirds passing requirement to 55% to match the school bond standard. The idea of lowering the parcel tax approval mark to 55% was rejected by likely voters, 49% to 42%.
The extensive PPIC poll begs the question how would voters react to the poll questions if they had the true facts of k-12 funding in front of them?
The larger question is how do we educate voters to the actual working of government so that they can offer wise thoughts to pollsters and cast educated votes in elections?
As Thomas Jefferson said, “An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic.”