By: Ross Ramsey
Most Texans don’t approve of the way state leaders and legislators are handling public education, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
Republicans aren’t as down on the state as Democrats, but it’s only a matter of degree. Where 20 percent of Republican voters approve of the state’s education work, only 10 percent of Democrats do. And where 62 percent of Democrats disapprove, only 42 percent of Republicans do.
Women had a more negative view of the state’s performance than men, with only 12 percent saying they approve of the way leaders and legislators are handling public education and 52 percent saying they disapprove. About as many men — 50 percent — disapprove, but more of them — 21 percent — said they approve of the job state officials are doing.
Jim Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, said voters were “broadly negative” on the state’s handling of public education, but noted that only 7 percent of them said education is the most important issue facing the state. “This seems to be one of those situations where, you ask Texans about education, and they want it to be better, but how important is it when confronted with a broader array of issues, possible priorities and spending priorities?”
Those partisan differences largely disappeared, however, when a second group of voters were asked the same question but offered choices that explicitly mentioned taxes. Overall, 50 percent said the money for public education should come from “existing state taxes” and 23 percent said it should come from “local property taxes.” Republicans (28 percent) were more likely than Democrats (20 percent) to say local property taxes were the preferable source of funding for public education.
That said, every cross-section of the poll’s voters strongly preferred existing state taxes for public education to local property taxes.
“Broadly speaking, you can say that Texans of all stripes disapprove of how the Legislature is handling public ed,” said Josh Blank, manager of polling and research at UT-Austin’s Texas Politics Project. “The reasons may differ, but the overall sentiment is pretty clear.”
“It’s incredibly rare to find Texas Democratic and Republican voter ratings of any institution to be moving in the same direction,” he said. “We expect partisanship to really drive differences.”
The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from June 8 to June 17 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points. In the split sample question on sources of funding for public education, the margins of error are higher: +/- 4.71 percentage points on governments and +/- 4.99 percentage points on taxes. Numbers in charts might not add up to 100 percent because of rounding.