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 Bolger) formally 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.