Voters losing hope on school issues, poll finds
Blame for problems placed at governor's feet, same survey concludes
By Steve Geissinger, MEDIANEWS SACRAMENTO BUREAU
Inside Bay Area
Article Last Updated:04/26/2007 08:11:48 AM PDT
SACRAMENTO — In surprising poll findings Wednesday, voters appear to have all but given up on fixing California's troubled education system and are blaming Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The governor, dealing this year with issues such as health care and prison overcrowding, postponed tackling school woes — like equalizing fund allocations between poor and rich areas. He instead declared next year his "Year of Education Reform."
In reaction, Schwarzenegger's overall job approval rating of 62 percent plummeted to 34 percent when focused on his handling of
education, according to the poll by the San Francisco-based Public Policy Institute of California.
Legislators fare little better.
While 38 percent approve of lawmakers' overall job performance, only 29 percent are satisfied with their handling of education, the poll found.
"While education remains a critical issue for most Californians, they clearly see a lack of progress and appear to be questioning the return on all the investment and activity of recent years," said Mark Baldassare of PPIC in a statement.
In the past decade, voters have faced education-related measures on just about every ballot and have passed nearly $45 billion in school bonds.
Once Schwarzenegger's "Year of Education Reform" does arrive, Baldassare said, "The question is — does the public have the will and the faith in state leaders to tackle this complex and controversial issue?"
Most Californians (80 percent) still believe the quality of K-12 education in the state is something of a problem, the poll found. Out of those, 52 percent believe schools are in big trouble.
But even so, they lack confidence in officials, their ability to allocate resources properly and are reluctant to hike education spending without greater fiscal responsibility.
Slightly less than half (48 percent) of those responding to the survey said the state needs to spend more wisely and increase the amount it spends on schools, while 37 percent expressed the belief that the state can improve education quality by just making better use of existing funds.
Respondents were divided over raising state taxes to benefit schools. The only universally popular concept for raising more funds is not new — boosting the state's income tax rate on the wealthiest Californians.
Support for raising more money for schools increases if voters were assured more funding would go to poor areas, teachers were given greater incentives to work there, and more counselors and social workers were hired to help boost graduation rates in those regions.
Findings were based on a telephone survey of 2,500, conducted between April 3-17. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.
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