PRESS RELEASE: Arizonans Support Continuation of 1-Cent Tax for Education

Arizona Voters Support Sales Tax Continuation to Fund Public Education.

Poll shows high level of support as well as demands for reform.

Seven out of 10 Arizona voters support the continuation of the existing one-cent sales tax to fund public education.

That was among the findings of a poll commissioned by a number of educational and business organizations released today.

“Support for continuation of the tax is broad-based, with Independents, Republicans, and Democrats all in favor,” said Dr. Bruce Merrill of Merrill Research, who conducted the poll.

“Voters seem to understand that the key to a solid education system is stable funding, school performance, and accountability,” said Ann-Eve Pedersen, President of the Arizona Education Parent Network. “With stable funding, educational institutions will be able to plan and implement strategies to improve student achievement and outcomes.”

This past summer, a number of groups representing various business, parent, and education community perspectives came together with the goal to improve Arizona’s educational outcomes. Organizations providing input included Education Breakthrough Network, Arizona Business and Education Coalition, Arizona Education Parent Network, Arizona School Boards Association, Arizona Education Association, Teach for America, and Stand for Children, among others.

In addition to meeting Arizona’s future public education needs, education groups are concerned by the pending expiration of Prop. 100 and the education funding gap it will create.

In May of 2010, Arizona voters enacted Prop. 100, a one-cent sales tax that has generated approximately $900 million annually. The expiration of the existing tax will result in a loss of hundreds of millions in education funding in FY 2014. Studies show Arizona continually lags among the bottom of all states in terms of public education funding and academic performance. Overall, the expiration of the tax will result in $1 billion less revenue to the state’s general fund, adversely impacting public education, public safety, health and human services, and university programs.

A group is in the final planning stages for a November 2012 ballot initiative, the details of which will be released in mid-to-late January.

The poll, conducted last month, surveyed 800 likely voters in Arizona, and revealed the electorate’s desire to strengthen the state’s education system across-the-board. Some key findings were:

• When asked about spending priorities, eight in 10 respondents ranked public education as very high or high. Cutting state taxes or replenishing the state’s “rainy day” fund ranked considerably lower, with only 40 and 43 percent ranking such efforts very high or high priority respectively.

• Voters support the notion of Performance Plans created by each school district and charter school to demonstrate how funding will be used to increase student performance. “We simply cannot issue a blank-check to Arizona school districts,” said Pedersen. “While Arizonans want more investment in K-12 education, these dollars must be tied to student performance if we want to meaningfully improve education in our state.”

• If the proposal includes scholarships for universities and community college students, 71 percent of voters are more likely to support the continuation of the one-cent sales tax. There was also substantial support for using increased university funding for both scholarships and operations.

• The poll revealed broad-based support across all political affiliations: Democrats (85 percent), independents (72 percent), and Republicans (63 percent). Self-identified members of the Tea Party would also support the initiative (60 percent).

• Three out of four likely voters believe that losing the Prop. 100 funds will be a very serious issue for education in Arizona. In addition, 75 percent respondents expressed little to no confidence that the Legislature would increase education funding even if state tax revenues were to rise.

• By a wide margin, voters support establishing a base level of funding for K-12 education, which would bar the legislature from cutting education funding below 2011 levels.

Dr. Bruce Merrill is one of Arizona’s most recognized and acknowledged pollsters. He is a Professor Emeritus of Mass Communication at ASU. He holds a B.S. in Mathematics, an M.S. in Political Science, an M.S. in Counseling Psychology, and a Ph.D. in Political Behavior from the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan where he trained at the Michigan Survey Research Center. Dr. Merrill was the founding director of the ASU Survey Research Center, founding Director of the Public Opinion Research Center at ASU, and founding director of the Walter Cronkite Media Research Center at ASU. He has conducted hundreds of surveys for private, public, and educational organizations throughout Arizona, the United States and several foreign countries.


Contact: Ann-Eve Pedersen
January 5, 2012

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