Voter Support for Schools Improves Significantly

March 21, 2003
A new poll released this week by the Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute shows that voter attitude towards public education in Montgomery County has improved significantly since November 2000, with a doubling of the percentage of voters to 29 percent who characterized the public schools as “excellent.”

Moreover, voters were overwhelmingly opposed to a reduction in education spending as a way of helping to balance the county budget, according to the poll, which was conducted by the research firm of Gonzales/Arscott in Annapolis.

In fact, the poll found that voters were significantly more inclined to pay higher property taxes if the money was earmarked for schools and transportation, as opposed to only transportation, and a majority was in favor of paying higher taxes to avoid class size increases.

“The findings underscore the value of our school system in the community and the growing recognition of the progress being made by our schools to provide a high quality education for the children of Montgomery County,” said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools, in a report to the Board of Education about the poll.

Overall, the poll found that voters were satisfied with the county's quality of life and the level of all services received from the county in relation to the taxes they pay.

Among the major findings in the poll:

* 67 percent of voters rated the school system as “excellent” (29 percent) or good (38 percent). When a similar survey was conducted in 2000, only 15 percent of voters rated the schools as “excellent.” In the new study, 17 percent rated the schools as fair, and less than one percent as poor. The remaining 17 percent gave no answer.

* People with children in school (39 percent) were more likely to rate them as excellent than those without children in the system (22 percent).

* 85 percent of voters were opposed to reducing education spending to help balance the county budget (with 14 percent in favor and 1 percent giving no answer).

* A majority (48 percent) said they would pay higher taxes specifically to avoid class size increases.

* 58 percent of voters said they would favor a 3-cent increase in property tax funding devoted to education and transportation, but this figure dropped to 39 percent if the increased funding was devoted only to transportation.

* 87 percent of voters rated the quality of life in Montgomery County as excellent (27 percent) or good (60 percent).

* 73 percent of voters said they were very satisfied (21 percent) or somewhat satisfied (52 percent) with the level of services they receive from the county relative to the amount of taxes paid.

The poll has a sampling error of plus or minus five percentage points from a sample of 401 Montgomery County voters who were interviewed by telephone on March 4 and 5, 2003. The poll is available as a PDF file at the link below.

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