Only one in five Minnesotans wants state legislators to spend the state’s $1.3 billion budget surplus on education, while more than half (56 percent) say lawmakers should give the money back to taxpayers or use it to lower taxes, according to a January 1998 statewide public opinion poll conducted by the Coalition of Minnesota Businesses.
The poll results reflect a dramatic change from last year, when only 28 percent said the surplus should be returned to taxpayers and 26 percent favored spending the surplus on education. Now, only 12 percent of respondents cite education as the state’s greatest problem, placing it a distant fourth after the decline of moral and family values (25 percent), crime (21 percent), and taxes (18 percent).
While education generally may not be viewed as a problem, Minnesotans strongly support specific education reforms and cite education as the issue that will most affect their decision in voting for governor later this year. Some 70 percent of respondents would favor a law allowing failing public schools to be reorganized and 72 percent would support redirecting the allotted state funds (per-pupil funding) to another public or nonpublic school so that parents could transfer their child from a failing public school.
When it comes to state government spending, Minnesotans feel the problem isn’t that state government spends too much money (16 percent), but that it spends money on the wrong things (59 percent).
The survey, conducted between January 13 and 20, 1998, by Decision Resources Ltd. of Minneapolis, was commissioned by the Coalition of Minnesota Businesses Inc., a nonpartisan grassroots organization representing more than 8,000 businesses employing more than 1.4 million Minnesotans. With a random sample of 805 Minnesotans, the poll has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percent.
George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News. His email address is [email protected].