Survey: Treasure Valley residents tepid on taxes for schools

Treasure Valley residents appear to be closely split on the idea of paying higher taxes to support schools.

That same split applies to paying for pre-kindergarten — even though an overwhelming majority of residents appear to support the concept of pre-K.

These were two findings from a recent telephone survey conducted by Boise State University.

The Treasure Valley Policy Survey focused on a variety of topics, from the economy to agriculture to crime. (Click here to access the survey; education-related responses appear on pages 25-30).

Among the highlights:

Taxes for schools. Even when given a prompt — and told that Idaho’s per-pupil spending ranks next to last in the nation ­— only 52 percent of respondents said local districts should raise additional tax revenue. Meanwhile, 43 percent of respondents opposed tax increases for schools. Not surprisingly, Democratic respondents said they were much more likely to support a tax increase for schools.

Ninety-four of Idaho’s 115 school districts had a supplemental property tax levy on the books in 2015-16 — including Treasure Valley districts such as Boise, West Ada, Nampa, Caldwell and Vallivue. Kuna had a supplemental levy in 2015-16, but it is now off the books.

Boise-Pre-K-Pilot-Program
A pre-K pilot classroom in the Boise School District.

Taxes for pre-K. While 71 percent of respondents said they supported pre-K, that support declined significantly when it came to paying for pre-K. In all, 52 percent of respondents said they would be willing to pay higher taxes for pre-K, while 43 percent said no.

Idaho is one of a handful of states that does not finance pre-K. Boise is experimenting with a pre-K program at Hawthorne and Whitney elementary schools.

Grading the schools. Asked about K-12 education statewide, 8 percent of respondents rated the school system as excellent. Meanwhile, 31 percent of respondents said Idaho schools were good, 32 percent rated the system as fair and 23 percent gave the school system poor marks.

Grades improved slightly when respondents were asked about their local schools. Thirteen percent rated their local schools as excellent, and 36 percent gave their local schools a grade of good.

The telephone survey of 1,000 Ada, Canyon and Owyhee county residents was conducted from Sept. 11-15. The results have a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

More about the BSU survey from Bill Dentzer and Bill Roberts of the Idaho Statesman, who first wrote about the results Sunday.

Disclosure: The survey was conducted by Boise State University’s School of Public Service. Kevin Richert is a BSU employee enrolled in the university’s master’s of public administration program, housed under the School of Public Service.