PARCA’s 2021 public opinion survey finds a growing majority of Alabamians support spending more on education but a lack of consensus on how to pay for the increase.
Among the findings:
- 61% of respondents say upper-income Alabamians pay too little in state taxes. The percent of respondents who believe upper-income earners pay too little increased by 10% from 2020.
- 53% say lower-income earners pay too much, up from 40% in 2016.
- 49% say they pay the right amount of taxes, compared to 57% in 2016.
- Despite Alabama’s low per capita tax yield, 69% of residents believe they pay the same or more taxes than people like themselves in other states.
Alabamians believe education is the most important service state government provides, but its lead over other services is declining.
- 44% rank education as the most important service, while 31.3% rank healthcare No. 1.
- 78% believe the state spends too little on education, compared to 74% in 2019 and 68% in 2013. Large majorities in every subpopulation have this belief.
- 69% support increasing taxes to support education, but no single tax increase option garners majority support.
- This year, respondents were asked what supplemental programs might improve education. No program received a majority response, but the top priorities were expanded tutoring, increased technology funding, and more mental health counseling.
- When asked what respondents’ top priority for new education funding would be, the highest percentage (41%) said that new revenue should go to increasing salary and benefits for teachers
- 59% say local boards of education are best suited to decide how education dollars are spent.
- Respondents believe that the local board of education are best suited to decide school spending, school policy, and school closings.
Other notable education findings:
- 77% believe that taxes on Internet sales should be distributed to local schools in the same way as sales tax revenue from brick-and-mortar sales.
- Alabamians are almost evenly split on tax-funded vouchers to pay for private school tuition. However, 61% of Alabamians believe vouchers, if allowed, should be available to all students.
Trust in State Government
Alabamians’ trust in state government improved slightly compared to 2019 but is still well below rates reported in the early 2000s.
- 77% support keeping the General Fund and Education Trust Fund separate, down from 80% in 2020 and 82% in 2019, but still well above the 69% reported in 2016.
- 63% believe state government officials do not care about their opinions, down from 66% last year. This compares to a low of 55% in 2008 and a high of 74% in 2010.
- 61% believe they have no say in state government, up from 55% last year, but well above the low of 43% in 2008.