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DFP Poll Finds Less Support Than GOP Pollster for Higher Sales Tax to Raise Teacher Pay

Dakota Free Press Reader Poll, 2016.01.17–20
Dakota Free Press Reader Poll, 2016.01.17–20

Republican pollster Glen Bolger has found stronger support for raising sales tax to raise teacher pay than this week’s liberal Dakota Free Press poll.

Bolger’s Public Opinion Strategies conducted its poll in telephone interviews with 500 likely South Dakota voters December 3–5, 2015. Bolger found 86% of respondents saying South Dakota teachers deserve higher pay and 71% saying they favor an extra half-percentage-point sales tax to fund higher teacher pay. Bolger conducted this poll three weeks after the release of the Blue Ribbon K-12 panel’s plan proposing such pay raises funded by sales tax but more than a month before Governor Dennis Daugaard (a 2014 client of Bolgerformally endorsed that plan in his State of the State address.

Dakota Free Press conducted its online poll from Sunday, January 17, through breakfast this morning, January 20. I asked about raising teacher pay, raising sales tax, and raising teacher pay by raising sales tax in three separate questions. Responses to those questions numbered 259, 243, and 249, respectively.

90% of you said raising teacher pay is good policy. 35% of you said raising sales tax is good policy. Combine those two issues, and opposition to sales tax wins out: only 44% of you say raising teacher pay by raising sales tax is good policy.

I don’t have demographic breakdowns on my respondents, but one would assume that my readership leans Democratic. Bolger found majority support for higher sales tax for higher teacher pay in every demographic slice he tested, but he found the strongest support among Democrats, 76%, compared to 72% among Indies and 69% among Republicans.

Working for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network in 2014, Bolger found 63% of South Dakota voters supporting Medicaid expansion. Governor Daugaard’s office dismissed those findings, saying at the time that Medicaid expansion was “‘too complex’ to validate in a single poll,” and waited two more years to kinda-sorta get behind expanding Medicaid.

Governor Daugaard has been laying out more details of his sales tax/teacher pay plan, but we’re still waiting to see the plan submitted as an official bill. The South Dakota Education Association and the School Administrators of South Dakota are pushing for action. The Yankton paper puts the odds of passing the sales tax hike for teacher pay raises at 50–50. Senator Deb Soholt (R-14/Sioux Falls), co-chair of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon K-12 panel that spent eight months gathering data and coming up with this plan, has gone from saying “it is now time to act” in November to saying it’s “premature” to say she will vote for the plan, though she claims that latter comment was taken out of context. Rep. Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Watertown) and Senator Phyllis Heineman (R-13/Sioux Falls) are already pushing to hang conservative school-choice geegaws on the teacher pay plan, suggesting it can’t pass on its own.


  1. Rita 2016-01-20 09:57

    I’ve been following the Make Education a Priority in SD page on Facebook (they tend to blame all of the problems with education on the dems). There’s a lot of frustration among people from both sides of the aisle. And people are tired of complaining and want to take some action. What can we as citizens of SD do? Can we get this on a ballot?

  2. mike from iowa 2016-01-20 11:19

    I ain’t afraid of a half cent increase in sales tax. Most people,I would guess,don’t take the time to wonder if there are alternatives to sales tax hikes if none are presented at polling time. The problem is pretty simple. Teachers need higher pay,some tax revenue needs to be raised to solve the problem. But then,I don’t guess everyone thinks teachers need more pay and certainly not at their expense.

    Tell the public that Obama says no tax increase for teachers and this pay increase will pass faster than wingnuts can crony-cut federal funding grants.

  3. Bill Fleming 2016-01-20 14:51

    Haha. Your poll led the audience to perhaps the “wrong” conclusion, in three easy steps, Cory. I hate to say it, but it was more like what “push polls” look like. ;-)

  4. Douglas Wiken 2016-01-20 15:28

    A half percent increase in the sales tax rate is actually a 12.5% increase in tax revenue. This kind of per cent deception has characterized every plan to raise the sales taxes.

  5. Mark Winegar 2016-01-20 15:57

    I like the exemption of food from sales tax included in the Democratic plan because it is less regressive.

  6. Roger Elgersma 2016-01-20 18:06

    As usual any good dem idea will eventually become law and in this state the repubs will take the credit for it. Well it is in the best interest of the kids so I am for it no matter whose idea it was to actually write the law. With 69% of repubs for it on their own poll they finally realized that if they are not for it they will look bad so they did it. It will pass for sure since no repub wants to get voted out by a dem because they were not for it when their own people are for it.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-20 19:35

    I agree, Bill, the order of the questions appears to have driven a different result from Bolger’s. Interesting exercise! Would the same questions drive votes in the Legislature or in a referendum the same way?

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-20 19:39

    Rita, I don’t think I’ve seen that page! How do those folks blame the Democrats for low teacher pay and other education problems?

    Action, Rita? Right now, the most important action to take is to call and write to legislators and tell them what to do. Get friends and neighbors to your local crackerbarrels on the weekends and make every question about saving our K-12 schools from losing their teacher pools.

    We can’t put the teacher pay plan on the ballot this year; it’s up to the Legislature to take action. If the Legislature fails to pass a teacher pay bill, the most immediate action for us to take is (1) recruit disgusted teachers, administrators, school board members, parents, and anyone else who gives a darn to run for Legislature against whoever votes against the eventual teacher pay bill. If you don’t run, then support the newcomers who do run and tell your neighbors to vote the incumbents out.

    Actually, teacher pay could end up on the ballot if the Legislature passes a plan and someone decides to stop it by referring it to a public vote. That doesn’t seem likely because anyone who wants to kill teacher pay raises is more likely to succeed in the Legislature than with the general electorate.

    Keep watching the Legislature, Rita. Call your reps, give them an earful, and make sure they vote right!

  9. paul harens 2016-01-20 20:38

    I agree, contact your legislator(s), but it does not always result in what you want to happen. I have contacted a number of legislators each year about education and the result is what it is. This is not the first panel on education and what to do about it. If my count is close, I think there has been at least six or seven in the last 15 to 20 years. I believe that it is a sin what has happened to teachers in this state. It isn’t just money, but also respect. There isn’t much there right now. I hate to think about all the comments I’ve heard the last several years about how teachers are spoiled children who should be happy with what they have. After all we have quality of life in SD and that makes up for any monetary value that teachers don’t get. Any bets on what happens? YP&D sets the odds 50-50? My bet is 40 for, 60 against. I hope I lose.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-21 06:29

    Thanks, Paul! Blue Ribbon is summer study #11 since Janklow’s third term.

    You’re right: contacting Legislators does not guarantee a result. But it expresses not just our faith in the democratic process but our expectation that it should work. If that process doesn’t work, then we move to the next step of the democratic process: voting legislators who don’t listen out of office and replacing them with better people… like you, Paul! Come to Pierre! Bring Terry Winter! It’ll be fun!

  11. Douglas Wiken 2016-01-21 13:57

    Bob Mercer’s report on Daugaard’s support for sales tax being tempered by knowledge of the over $400 million in school reserves built up over the last few years. is interesting, but not just for the data it contains. His rather historical recording of school account changes in purposes and caps and removed caps, etc indicates the accounting system is a colossal mess. It needs to be fundamentally changed. The proposed caps on Capital Asset accounts are absurdly high. Take the $2,800 per student times the 130,000 SD students and see what kind of a number you get. That would mean even more money sitting in banks for no good purpose. The proposal is all smoke and mirrors or as a friend says, “political theater”. There need to be more accounts. At least one for Capital asset Purchase which can only have funds in it by a citizen vote on a specific project and only money in that account can be used to build or purchase an asset. The Capital Asset account should be for building maintenance, fuel, etc. General expenditures for basic school functions. Mercer comes up with a total of about $425 million in capital asset and general fund accounts. He misses the money sitting in the federal impact funds.
    The legislature and the governors have created a tangled web of funding and accounting which fails in numerous ways to have teeth or transparency. The system is a fraud and the changes proposed are wrong-headed without other fundamental changes.
    Another thing that has apparently not been considered is the general economy. Do low steel and oil prices stimulate or kill the economy? Does it make any difference in South Dakota anyway? What will be the sales tax revenue. Also apparently not considered is the likely 18 percent increase in ag land values without a commensurate reduction in mil levies.

  12. Rita 2016-01-22 10:43

    Cory, I’ve seen comments on that group’s page blaming dems for putting too much focus on teacher pay and not enough on getting rid of Common Core and letting parents opt their kids out of standardized testing.
    One guy got a form letter from Mike Rounds and claimed that Rounds had the liberal “talking points down,” while also saying that he got the same response from Noem and Thune. I pointed out that that sounded like conservative talking points to me. And he said there’s no difference between the parties, SD conservatives are all RINOs and are actually libs in disguise. LOL Ummm yeah… not really.

    But the moderator agrees with you about getting people who are passionate about improving education to run for office. And there are several former teachers that share how they’ve spoken up with the legislature to see time and time again that they are unwilling to go beyond the talk and do anything productive.

    I’ve talked to people who complain but they’re not willing to call or write to their reps. But they say that they’d sign a petition.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-24 09:04

    Rita, I appreciate every one of the thousands of people who have signed petitions when I ask. Petitions get the ball rolling. But calling and writing our legislators can help us avoid having to do the extra work of circulating petitions—or, looked at from another direction, we wouldn’t have to circulate initiative and referendum petitions if legislators would pay more attention to the public and enact the public’s priorities.

    I wouldn’t mind getting rid of Common Core… but people need to understand that the problem isn’t that some nefarious Illuminati are trying to brainwash our kids with globalist propaganda. The problem with Common Core and the whole standards movement is that teachers lose valuable teaching time to bureaucratic requirements imposed on them to produce paperwork that does not directly improve their teaching and which will be negated and replaced by new standards paperwork within five years.

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