Photo: Alison Yin for EdSource
This story was updated on May 20,2019 to reflect a correction.

As pressure builds in California to increase funding for public schools, a new poll shows that a majority of likely voters are in favor of raising taxes on wealthy corporations and individuals to boost education funding.

Six in 10 California voters say they would support a possible 2020 ballot initiative that would raise at least $11 billion for K-12 schools and community colleges, according to a California School Boards Association poll released last week.

Respondents were polled on their opinions on a hypothetical ballot measure that would increase income taxes on corporations making over $1 million by 5 percent and increase the personal income tax for earners making more than $1 million by 1.5 percent.

The school boards association has launched a Full and Fair Funding campaign in an attempt to convince the Legislature to raise school funding per student in California to the national average by 2020 and to the average of the top 10 states by 2025.

Poll respondents were told that funds generated by the initiative could be used by K-12 school districts and community colleges in a variety of ways, including student services, technology, arts and music education, or to attract and retain teachers. Most of the tax revenue (89 percent) would be allocated for K-12 schools, with the remaining 11 percent going to community colleges.

The poll, which was based on 1,021 telephone interviews, also showed that 77 percent of likely voters said schools are in “some need” or “great need” of additional funding, about the same response to a similar question in a 2018 poll commissioned by the association.

“Doing more with less is no longer an option,” said Emma Turner, president of the California School Boards Association. “Today’s students need to be prepared for a world that is more complex, more global and more technological than ever before. Yet California ranks at the bottom for nearly every measure for school funding and staffing. That is unacceptable.”

The California School Boards Association is not yet planning to put the measure on the ballot. According to Troy Flint, a spokesman for the association, the organization is waiting to see if the state Legislature increases school funding in the 2019 legislative cycle.

If lawmakers do not raise funding significantly — at least $12 billion annually, Flint said — then the association plans to start gathering signatures to get a ballot measure on the 2020 ballot with wording similar to the one described in the poll.

“We are looking to the Legislature to make significant progress in substantially increasing school funding this legislative session,” Flint said. “If it fails to do that, then we will give every consideration to a ballot measure for the November 2020 election. All of the polling we have done at this point indicates strong support for a measure to raise $11 billion for schools and gives every indication that such a measure would pass if it were on the ballot.”

Several proposals to increase funding for schools — which Gov. Gavin Newsom said already consume 45 percent of the state’s general fund — are already on the table. The most definite is an initiative that has a qualified for the Nov 2020 ballot that would overhaul Proposition 13, which limits property taxes to no more than 1 percent of full assessed value. The initiative would increase taxes on commercial properties and if approved by voters would raise between $6 billion and $10 billion annually. Forty percent of those funds would go to K-12 schools and community colleges.

In addition, Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, along with several other East Bay lawmakers, earlier this this year introduced legislation that would raise the income taxes on about 2,000 of California’s most profitable corporations. The rate would be largely determined by the size of the gap between what the companies pay their CEO and their workers. However, it is far from clear whether this measure would become law, as similar ones have not made it out of the Legislature in the past.

Flint disagreed that placing another measure on the ballot might make it more difficult to convince voters to approve the “split roll” initiative to reform Prop. 13.

“We think it’s important that California schools get to the national average and beyond,” he said. “Split roll alone won’t get us there, but we don’t see that as a rival measure because it has a different focus. The measure [in the poll] is exclusive to schools.” In a split roll, “you’re taking maybe half, in the most optimistic scenarios, to go to schools. It’s a different measure.”

Gov. Newsom has acknowledged that California lags behind other states in its education spending.

“We’re still 41st in the nation in per-pupil funding,” he said in February in his first State of the State address. “Something needs to change. We need to have an honest conversation about how we fund our schools at a state and local level.”

At the same time, he has not indicated what measure, if any, he would support to generate more revenues for that purpose.

Correction: This story was changed to correct how much the California School Boards Association would like the Legislature to increase education funding.

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  1. John Steele 1 month ago1 month ago

    If 40% of the Kalyfornzuela budget that is bound by law to be spent on education, then taxing the wealthy people who are productive to temporarily prop up the failing Union run Government schools won’t help. Keep in mind that millionaires can come and go. Stats show that States that pass such laws find out in a few years that the “Millionaires ” have left. You just can’t fix stupid!

  2. Erje Wilson 1 month ago1 month ago

    How many ballots/bonds/props have we passed to support public schools in CA? When are we going to stop treating CA taxpayers and corporations as the piggy bank to feed this endless bottomless so called public education pit? This is a joke!

  3. Jeff Camp 1 month ago1 month ago

    The post says "The [split roll] initiative would increase taxes on commercial properties..." This is incorrect. Tax rates would not be increased -- they would be applied to the current value of the property. More revenue would be collected to the extent that the properties have gained value. At present, incumbent owners of commercial property are taxed only on the assessed value of their property, a figure that can be quite a lot lower than … Read More

    The post says “The [split roll] initiative would increase taxes on commercial properties…” This is incorrect. Tax rates would not be increased — they would be applied to the current value of the property. More revenue would be collected to the extent that the properties have gained value. At present, incumbent owners of commercial property are taxed only on the assessed value of their property, a figure that can be quite a lot lower than the fair market value.

  4. Jennifer Bestor 1 month ago1 month ago

    Please be clear: the split-roll initiative is merely marketed as "for schools." The LAO stated that 40% of the new revenue from the split-roll initiative would accrue to education – based on a general statewide average. However, using the USC study cited by the initiative and actual county-by-county allocation percentages, only 33% would go to education – and 29.4% to K-12 schools! So, once again, "for education" is the marketing optic – … Read More

    Please be clear: the split-roll initiative is merely marketed as “for schools.”
    The LAO stated that 40% of the new revenue from the split-roll initiative would accrue to education – based on a general statewide average. However, using the USC study cited by the initiative and actual county-by-county allocation percentages, only 33% would go to education – and 29.4% to K-12 schools!

    So, once again, “for education” is the marketing optic – but not the actual beneficiary. (The 58 county governments actually get the most – 36% of the new revenue.)

    As long as we let every other special interest play this shell game, schools will be 41st. So let’s hope Gavin Newsom’s honesty begins with acknowledging where money “for schools” really goes. Like the $8.5 billion of the General Fund that goes “to schools” that is actually backfilling the $8.5 billion taken from school property tax this year for the so-called VLF Swap. For starters.

  5. Bernie 1 month ago1 month ago

    All that money’s going to pensions.

  6. Todd Maddison 1 month ago1 month ago

    “Doing more with less is no longer an option,” said Emma Turner, president of the California School Boards Association.

    Since passing Prop 30 in 2012, per ADA spending in my district has risen 40%, which is a rate that is multiple times higher than inflation (an average annual rate of 8% per year..)

    How is that “doing more with less”?

  7. Todd Maddison 1 month ago1 month ago

    Polls like this are misleading because there's no qualification to determine whether the respondents actually know anything about what they're responding to. When you actually educate the respondent a bit, the picture often changes. For example, recent polls showed that most Californians felt teachers were underpaid. When you added in "did you know according to the state Department of Education the average CA teacher makes $80,000/year, do you think CA teachers are underpaid" the answers … Read More

    Polls like this are misleading because there’s no qualification to determine whether the respondents actually know anything about what they’re responding to.

    When you actually educate the respondent a bit, the picture often changes.

    For example, recent polls showed that most Californians felt teachers were underpaid. When you added in “did you know according to the state Department of Education the average CA teacher makes $80,000/year, do you think CA teachers are underpaid” the answers flipped to majority opposed.

    Which means in the initial poll, the majority of respondents were happy to give their opinion on teacher pay despite the fact that they had no idea what teachers made.

    Here, what if we said “since raising taxes in 2012 to fund schools, all of the money raised and then some has gone to increases in pay and benefits for everyone in the K-12 education industry, do you think we should raise taxes again to better fund education”? We might get a different answer.

    In my district, we get $23 million/year on average from EPA funds (Prop 30). Since passing Prop 30, the cost of pay and benefits in my district has gone up by over $50 million/year. Not only are none of the Prop 30 funds going into programs and services for the kids, but we’re now dragging down the General Fund as well.

    And during that time the district has given itself raises at a rate that averages almost 6% per year – three times the rate of wage growth in my county for “everyone else”.

    Meanwhile, of course, academic achievement, as measured by the CA School Dashboard, is at best flat.

    Why would anyone who actually knew what had been done with our money in the past feel that giving more money is any sort of answer?

  8. ed 1 month ago1 month ago

    I am completely committed to more funding for all local governments and therefore support the split role proposal.There is a campaign organized and working for the split role. I am someone who campaigns for measures! Two measures on the same ballot would be harmful to both. Let’s do split role in 2020 and more for schools in 2022.

  9. Eleanor Sledgewick 1 month ago1 month ago

    It’s long past time the rich pay their fair share.

    Replies

    • CG 1 month ago1 month ago

      And what is exactly fair share, Eleanor? No Democrat can explain it except to keep taxing more and more until there is no more. Then when we reach a point that it is cost-effective for corporations and the wealthy to leave this state, you will still complain rather than look in the mirror and blame yourself.

  10. John Steele 1 month ago1 month ago

    The taxpayers here had better start to realize that dumping boatloads of money into a failing public school system that graduates (if they graduate at all) functionally illiterate people isn’t the answer. The unions have taken over and the propaganda that is passed off as education is absurd.

    Replies

    • tom 1 month ago1 month ago

      Agree John that the unions have taken over and that includes at the local level - note School Board's caving into added compensation demands without the means to responsibly pay for it. My guess is that any additional funding by "taxing the rich" (which has already been done via Prop. 30), will just go to prop up an unsustainably pension fiasco and won't get to the kids. There are cheaper and better ways to … Read More

      Agree John that the unions have taken over and that includes at the local level – note School Board’s caving into added compensation demands without the means to responsibly pay for it. My guess is that any additional funding by “taxing the rich” (which has already been done via Prop. 30), will just go to prop up an unsustainably pension fiasco and won’t get to the kids. There are cheaper and better ways to educate our kids in this State but the unions are too influential to allow an honest discussion and our politicians are bought and paid for.