Poll: Taxpayers Prepared to Shell Out for Better Schools

A strong majority of the 1,500 registered California voters polled by USC Dornsife/L.A. Times are willing to pay higher taxes to boost funding for public schools even in a grim economy, writes Teresa Watanabe at the Los Angeles Times.

"I think we've reached a tipping point on the willingness of voters to pay more taxes" for schools, said Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, which co-directed the bipartisan poll for USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times.

"Across party and ideology in tough times, to favor a tax increase on yourself is pretty impressive."

Only 34% of conservative Republicans said that they would be prepared to spend more, while 60% of moderate Republicans and three quarters of Democrats said they would support such a move.

A majority of those polled said that the state's public school system was in bad shape. Two-thirds of those polled gave their schools a grade of C or below and about half saying they were getting worse. Respondents blamed funding shortages, wasteful spending and bureaucratic barriers to innovation and reform.

California extended the rights of parents in a law known as the Parent Trigger last year. And this poll echoes that. Many support the rights of parents to demand sweeping changes at low-performing schools such as reorganizing staff and curriculum, converting to charter schools or closing campuses altogether.

Voters also expressed near-agreement on what else they would do to improve local schools, wanting more parent involvement, smaller class sizes, more dollars directed to the classroom and apprenticeships for new teachers would help.

"Most respondents said they've seen the effects of the funding crisis in their schools: bigger classes, fewer arts programs and more out-of-pocket spending for supplies."

This comes as a new report issued by the state Legislative Analyst's Office projected a $3.7-billion shortfall in the current budget, which could trigger more than $1 billion in cuts from kindergartens through high schools.

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