Poll Shows Surprising Support for MPS
Most think MPS needs more funding and would back it in the referendum, poll shows.
A December poll of city voters commissioned by Milwaukee Public Schools shows voters are generally supportive of MPS and feel the system needs more money. The results suggest the referendum question being asked of voters on the April 7 ballot, allowing MPS to raise an additional $87 million annually over and above the state-imposed spending cap, is likely to pass.
The poll found more than 7 in 10 voters thought Milwaukee Public Schools needed more funding, with 51 percent saying there was a “great need” and 21 percent saying there was “some need” for additional funding and just 14 percent saying there was “no need” for greater funding.
60 percent of respondents said they would support an increase of $107 million annually in school spending, at a cost of $199 per year in property taxes on a $100,000 home and 64 percent supported a $53 million annual increase in school spending, at a cost of $97 per year in annual property taxes.
The poll, by Los Angeles polling company Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, surveyed a sample — 753 respondents — of Milwaukee voters likely to cast a ballot in the April 2020 election. “Clear majorities offer support for a proposed referendum measure,” the survey noted. “Particularly noteworthy is that at $107 million, support hits the 60% threshold, including 40% who say they would “definitely” vote “yes” – metrics we typically look for in order to be confident of a measure’s success.”
The survey also asked respondents’ opinions after being told pro and con arguments and noted this: “Given the tendency for support for diminish after exposure to pro and con arguments, an amount between $80 million and $107 million… is likely the upper bound at which a measure could pass.”
The survey found high favorability ratings for local public school teachers, with 71 percent having a positive view. That dropped when asked about “your neighborhood school” (57 percent positive) and “Milwaukee Public Schools” (55 percent positive). But those responses, when combined with a high percentage saying the system has a need for more money, might suggest voters believe more money could improve the system.
The survey also asked respondents what they thought any new money should be spent on and found this: “Voters prioritize investments in recruiting and retaining teachers, improving school safety and security, fixing leaky roofs, and expanding special education services,” which they deemed more important than such goals as “increasing the availability of language classes” or “adding more staff at school libraries.”
A copy of the poll was requested by attorney and political activist Dan Adams and posted last week on his blog, where he noted that “After many weeks of delay, Milwaukee Public Schools has finally released, per my Open Records Request, the results of a poll the district put into the field in December.”
This would be the first referendum for MPS to raise funding over state-imposed caps since 1993. That referendum called for many hundreds of millions to upgrade buildings, and created a memorable battle of one-time allies, with then MPS superintendent Howard Fuller pushing for the referendum, and then Mayor John Norquist opposing it. The referendum was defeated by a significant margin.
Milwaukee’s school system operates independently of the city, with its own property tax levy. Current Mayor Tom Barrett has taken no position on the referendum.
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More about the Proposed MPS Referendum
- Op Ed: Why I’m Canvassing for MPS - Chloe Smith - Feb 26th, 2020
- Murphy’s Law: Poll Shows Surprising Support for MPS - Bruce Murphy - Feb 12th, 2020
- The Educator: The Rationale for MPS Referendum - Terry Falk - Jan 14th, 2020
- Milwaukee Board of School Directors Votes to go to Referendum - Milwaukee Public Schools - Dec 20th, 2019
- Questions for Milwaukee teachers’ union on poll results - Milwaukee Works, Inc. - Dec 12th, 2019
- Op Ed: Say Yes To MPS Referendum - Julie Rowley - Dec 5th, 2019
- Data Wonk: Would MPS Referendum Pass? Should it? - Bruce Thompson - Aug 7th, 2019