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May 9, 2013: Philadelphia public school students protesting school funding cuts.
Most Pennsylvania voters wouldn't mind a hike in their income taxes if it would help to fund public schools, according to a poll released Monday.
The poll co-sponsored by Philadelphia-based youth advocacy group Public Citizens for Children and Youth says 28 percent of likely voters rank education and schools funding as the most important state policy issue, edging out jobs and development to top the list.
The poll marks a major departure from a 2002 survey by Good Schools Pennsylvania, a public education lobbying and advocacy organization.
"What I found in 2002 was extraordinary concern about the disparity in school funding, but much less commitment to support statewide revenue increases that involved individuals," said Donna Cooper, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, in a conference call with reporters Monday.
"Now the pain of the underfunding of schools statewide is being shared by many, many more districts," said Cooper, formerly of GSP.
Director Sharon Ward of the nonpartisan Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, the report's other co-sponsor, said residents think the state can dig deeper into its pockets than leaders admit.
"The public is not really buying into the argument made by the administration that we can't afford to restore funding, that the problem was temporary federal funds," Ward said during the call. "That certainly doesn't square with what they are seeing in their own communities."
The poll also found that most voters favored delaying a planned corporate tax cut while raising sales taxes in the name of education.
Pennsylvania voters are generally more concerned about education now than in the last decade.
A separate 2002 inquiry found that 30 percent of respondents named jobs or the economy as the state's most pressing concern, versus only 17 percent who put education at the top.
Interviewers surveyed 604 likely voters from June 19 to June 23. Forty-seven percent of the respondents were registered Democrats; 43 percent were registered Republicans; and 10 percent identified their party affiliation as independent or other.
The poll was conducted by Lake Research, a public opinion and political strategy research firm based in Washington, D.C.