Education SPLOST Gets Overwhelming Support in Fulton and Dekalb

Voters in metropolitan Atlanta will be asked to raise taxes or keep existing taxes at least three times in the next eighteen months. The first vote this November will be to keep the one penny sales tax for education in Fulton, Dekalb, the city of Atlanta, and the city of Decatur. This tax is used for construction, maintenance, technology, and other upgrades in each school system. Despite the anti-tax environment, a recent poll shows the SPLOST tax for education will likely pass. BWB polls to find out what others think and then presents the results and our perspective.
The poll commissioned by Blogging While Blue surveyed 590 likely voters in metropolitan Atlanta from June 1 through June 5, 2011 on a range of issues including education, transportation, and national politics. Voters in Fulton and Dekalb county overwhelmingly support continuing the SPLOST for education for another five years. In Dekalb County, which includes the city of Decatur and part of the city of Atlanta, 80% of the voters surveyed say they support continuing the tax. Voters in Fulton County, which includes the city of Atlanta, are almost as supportive with 73% saying they support the tax. A clear majority of voters, who are opposed to other sales tax referendums, support the SPLOST tax for education. Even 49% of voters who identify themselves as Republican, a group notorious for opposing taxes, support the tax for education.

The poll results are surprising since recently a fair amount of media coverage has focused on the alleged dysfunction of the Atlanta Board of Education and top officials at the Dekalb County school system were indicted last year for their actions in Dekalb County’s capital program. Even when told about these governance and corruption problems, almost half of the voters surveyed in Fulton and Dekalb say they are still not likely to oppose the tax. 
The results are clear – when it comes to funding education in metropolitan Atlanta, voters favor increased funding. This is likely music to the ears of school board members in Atlanta, Fulton, Dekalb, and Decatur where all four boards have approved, or plan to approve, placing the SPLOST question on the ballot in November 2011. 
In the worse economic times Georgians have faced in decades, most metro voters are prepared to tax themselves to benefit public education. It is an investment that pays dividends for communities for generations. A few years ago the organization CEO’s in Cities launched a national campaign to educate city leaders about the advantages of funding and supporting higher education as a key economic development strategy. According to CEO’s for Cities research, a bachelor’s degree increases the income level of the person by $10k per annum. Investment in higher education is hollow unless communities invest in K through 12 education. Metro voters must know this instinctively.

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