Despite a seeming consensus that Americans overwhelmingly oppose tax increases, a new poll in Virginia shows a bipartisan majority would be willing to pay more if it meant increased school funding, especially for low-income schools, and, for many of those polled, higher teacher pay.
"The poll … found that 69 percent of Virginians are willing to pay more in taxes to maintain state funding at current levels. Fewer, 54 percent, said they'd be willing to pay more to increase funding for public schools," reported the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
"The number of people willing to see their taxes raised for additional funding jumped from 54 percent to 67 percent if the money was used to help high-poverty, low-performing schools. Of those respondents, 44 percent said they would prefer if the extra funding went toward increasing teacher pay."
Among those of all political affiliations, a majority expressed willingness to pay more for higher school funding, though the poll showed a 33-point spread between Democrats (85 percent) and Republican (52 percent).
The poll asked respondents about recent changes underway to Virginia's high school structure. The state is moving toward a general education focus during the early years of high school, and increased emphasis on building skills needed for chosen career paths as students get closer to graduation. Virginians showed broad support (77 percent) for the transformation, currently in its second year.
“'Last year, Governor McAuliffe worked in a bipartisan manner with members of the General Assembly to pass legislation that would redesign high school to focus more on workforce skills and provide a variety of rigorous pathways to graduation,' said Virginia Secretary of Education Dietra Trent in a release from VCU News. 'And this poll clearly shows that the citizens of the commonwealth overwhelmingly support this approach to bring education into the 21st century.'”
Other topics covered in the poll included charter schools and support for mental health services and school safety. Forty-five percent oppose changing Virginia's constitution to give charter schools independence from school boards. Fifty-six percent are willing to have their child earn some high school credit online. And 78 percent feel their schools are safe or very safe.
"'In Virginia we're very blessed. Education is a nonpartisan issue,' Trent said of the findings," the Times-Dispatch reported.
In the annual Commonwealth Education Poll conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University's (VCU) Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute, 806 adults statewide were surveyed by phone.