A majority of Virginians are willing to see their taxes raised if the money goes toward public education, according to a poll from Virginia Commonwealth University.
The poll, released this week, 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 would be willing to pay more to increase funding for public schools.
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.
“Funding is always a question that comes up with regards to K-12 education, and this year is no different,” said Robyn McDougle, a professor and interim executive director of the Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute at VCU.
“What we found this year, and this is actually in support of what we found last year, is that for our citizens in the commonwealth of Virginia, funding is extremely important to the quality of education that occurs in the classroom. And they believe that that funding is truly tied to how the state meets those needs.”
The willingness to pay more in taxes for schools is bipartisan, according to the poll, with 85 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of independents and 52 percent of Republicans willing to see taxes raised to maintain funding at current levels.
Along with funding, respondents were asked about charter schools, their support for plans to change high school curriculum, teacher pay, support for mental health services and school safety.
Among the findings:
- 45 percent oppose changing Virginia’s constitution to give charter schools independence from school boards.
- 56 percent are willing to have their child earn some high school credit online. Only 14 percent support their child earning all credits online.
- 78 percent believe their schools are safe or very safe.
The survey was conducted by the policy institute, which is a part of VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.
The poll included 806 respondents from across the state. The margin of error is 4.3 percent.
McDougle said the poll was conducted Dec. 1-21.
“It really gives members of the General Assembly and the executive [branch] views about what people are thinking in the commonwealth in close proximity to the start of the session,” she said. “So we feel really good about the way in which we went about asking these questions.”
McDougle said the poll’s authors worked closely with the office of Dietra Trent, the secretary of education, to identify key public policy questions in K-12 education.
Trent said policymakers should look at the poll to get a pulse of Virginians’ attitudes toward education.
“In Virginia we’re very blessed. Education is a nonpartisan issue,” Trent said of the findings.
“The governor and the legislature have worked together over the last three years on a number of innovative and very creative solutions to education. I was very pleased to see that most of those areas we are working on were affirmed and reaffirmed by this poll.”
Trent said it is encouraging that the public is receptive to the state’s high school redesign.
The redesign is a nearly complete transformation of high schools aimed at getting students better prepared for entering their postsecondary lives.