Washington legislators, remember your paramount duty
Washington legislators, remember your paramount duty (NPI illustration)

The McCleary case may have come to an end today, but Wash­ing­ton vot­ers con­tin­ue to believe pub­lic schools are under­fund­ed, and sup­port has grown while oppo­si­tion has fall­en for levy­ing a cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy to ensure our state meets its para­mount duty of pro­vid­ing an amply fund­ed edu­ca­tion for all chil­dren resid­ing with­in its bor­ders, NPI’s most recent statewide sur­vey has found.

58% of six hun­dred and sev­en­ty-five like­ly 2018 Wash­ing­ton vot­ers sur­veyed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling last month said they sup­port a cap­i­tal gains tax to fund edu­ca­tion, up from 57% one year ago. 37% said they opposed it, down by four points from one year ago. 40% expressed strong sup­port for a cap­i­tal gains tax.

Respon­dents were asked:

Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose or strong­ly oppose tax­ing the cap­i­tal gains of wealthy indi­vid­u­als to help pay for pub­lic schools, col­leges and universities?

Answers were as follows:

  • Sup­port: 58%
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 40%
    • Some­what sup­port: 18%
  • Oppose: 37%
    • Some­what oppose: 10%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 27%
  • Not sure: 5%

Our sur­vey of six hun­dred and sev­en­ty-five like­ly 2018 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field May 22nd-23rd, 2018. The sur­vey used a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines and online inter­views of cell phone only respon­dents. The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for NPI, and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.8% at the 95% con­fi­dence level.

NPI began ask­ing Wash­ing­to­ni­ans about their views on a cap­i­tal gains tax in 2015, find­ing 55% in sup­port then, with 43% strong­ly supportive.

Our 2018 find­ing con­tin­ues to show sup­port above this base­line, demon­strat­ing vot­ers still want to see the wealthy step up and pay their fair share to sup­port our pub­lic schools, col­leges, and universities.

One year after leg­is­la­tors increased prop­er­ty tax­es in urban and sub­ur­ban school dis­tricts at the insis­tence of Repub­li­cans, vot­ers con­tin­ue to believe a cap­i­tal gains tax is an appro­pri­ate solu­tion to ongo­ing fund­ing prob­lems in our pub­lic schools.

In the 2018 short ses­sion, House Democ­rats once again pro­posed a cap­i­tal gains tax to fund pub­lic edu­ca­tion, and it received a key com­mit­tee vote.

Despite strong sup­port among Sen­ate Democ­rats, the pro­pos­al, cham­pi­oned by retir­ing Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kris Lyt­ton, did not make it out of the Legislature.

But our research shows vot­ers remain enthu­si­as­tic about this idea. They want a cap­i­tal gains tax to be includ­ed in the Leg­is­la­ture’s 2019 agenda.

Our sur­vey also found that vot­ers across the state con­tin­ue to believe new rev­enue is need­ed to sup­port pub­lic edu­ca­tion, despite the state’s briefs claim­ing they have com­plied with the Con­sti­tu­tion’s para­mount duty clause (Arti­cle IX, Sec­tion 1).

Respon­dents were asked:

Do you strong­ly agree, some­what agree, some­what dis­agree or strong­ly dis­agree with the fol­low­ing state­ment: Washington’s pub­lic schools are under­fund­ed, and we need to raise state rev­enue to ful­ly fund them?

61% of respon­dents said they agreed with that state­ment, while only 37% dis­agreed. Answers in each cat­e­go­ry were as follows:

  • Agree: 61%
    • Strong­ly agree: 37%
    • Some­what agree: 24%
  • Dis­agree: 34%
    • Some­what dis­agree: 18%
    • Strong­ly dis­agree: 16%
  • Not sure: 5%

Last year, the Leg­is­la­ture adopt­ed an edu­ca­tion fund­ing plan designed to com­ply with the Supreme Court’s orders in the McCleary case. Jus­tices found that law­mak­ers’ work was incom­plete, and last fall ordered them to come up with anoth­er $1 bil­lion in fund­ing, which leg­is­la­tors deliv­ered in the 2018 session.

Many par­ents, teach­ers, and school admin­is­tra­tors believe the new fund­ing is still insuf­fi­cient to meet the needs of stu­dents in the classroom.

The Olympian edi­to­ri­al­ized sev­er­al weeks ago that the “state is not done fix­ing K‑12 school fund­ing,” not­ing that gaps in essen­tial fund­ing per­sist, and school dis­tricts are fac­ing anoth­er fund­ing cliff next year.

The con­sis­tent sup­port found in NPI’s polling for new, pro­gres­sive rev­enue to fund pub­lic schools should give leg­is­la­tors all the con­fi­dence they need to pur­sue reforms that will not just amply pro­vide for the edu­ca­tion of all youth as our Con­sti­tu­tion requires, but do it in a way that is just, respon­si­ble, and equitable.

Adjacent posts