full and fair funding
CSBA polling shows strong voter support for school funding ballot measure
Gov. Gavin Newsom recognized the reality of California school funding in his 2019 State of the State address, saying, “We’re still 41st in the nation in per-pupil funding. Something needs to change.” While the May budget revision is a start (see article on page 6) — California is a long way from the finish line.
CSBA’s Full and Fair Funding initiative is calling on the Legislature to raise California public school funding to the national average by 2020, and to the average of the top 10 states by 2025. While the association is currently working with lawmakers to achieve this goal, CSBA is also preparing to take action if a legislative solution to the school funding crisis cannot be reached.
Public opinion on school funding
CSBA partnered with FM3 Research on new polling to measure the voting public’s opinion on increasing school funding. The poll began with a basic question asking likely voters if California schools need additional funding, and three out of four voters agreed. (It is worth noting that more than half of the people polled thought that California already funded schools at or above the national average and still supported more funding.)

The poll also found that six out of 10 likely voters in California would support a ballot measure that would generate $11 billion in tax revenue to support K-12 public schools and community colleges — the amount of money it would take just to reach the national average. The poll results provide resounding affirmation of CSBA’s Full and Fair Funding campaign.

The proposed ballot measure was presented in two ways:

  1. Sample ballot language that included specific information:
    • Increase taxes on corporate income more than $1 million by 5 percent.
    • Increase personal income taxes on earnings more than $1 million by 1.5 percent.
    • All funding to be used by local K-12 school districts and community college districts to improve education in STEM subjects, train students for 21st-century careers, retain/attract quality teachers, improve school safety and other educational programs.
    • Allocates these tax revenues 89 percent to K-12 and 11 percent to community colleges.
  2. A plain-language measure representing how people might talk about it in conversation.

Then, positive and negative messages were communicated, including that all funds would be used to support local schools and stay out of the hands of Sacramento politicians, and that more taxes could drive businesses out of the state. After all messaging was received, the sample ballot measure maintained 61 percent support, well above the 50 percent plus one vote threshold needed for passage.

The survey demonstrates that the measure can stand up to opposition, particularly when supporters communicate first what the funds will be used for and stress fiscal accountability — especially preventing the state diversion of funds and requiring all funds support local schools.

“After 40 years of underinvestment in California’s public schools, doing more with less is no longer an option,” CSBA CEO and Executive Director Vernon M. Billy said. “Students need to be prepared for a world that is more complex, more global and more technological than ever before. The status quo for California public schools is unsustainable. Fortunately, voters recognize this and are willing to invest in the change our students need to receive a high-quality education and to succeed in college, career and civic life.”