Marylanders overwhelmingly say they are willing to pay more in taxes to improve public education, according to a new Goucher College poll. In this file photo, Kirwan commission chairman William E. "Brit" Kirwan speaks at a news conference in March in Annapolis.
Marylanders overwhelmingly say they are willing to pay more in taxes to improve public education, according to a new Goucher College poll. In this file photo, Kirwan commission chairman William E. "Brit" Kirwan speaks at a news conference in March in Annapolis. (Joshua McKerrow / Capital Gazett /)

Marylanders overwhelmingly say they are willing to pay more in taxes to improve public education, according to a new Goucher College poll.

In a survey the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center conducted Sept. 13 to Sept. 18, 74% of Marylanders said they support personally paying more in taxes to improve public education, while only 26% were opposed.

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Moreover, 70% of Marylanders said they believe the state is spending too little on public education, while just 6% said they think the state is spending too much, the poll found. About 19% said they believe the state is spending the right amount on public schools.

The poll is a boost for education advocates who are readying for a fight from Gov. Larry Hogan and the Change Maryland organization formed by his allies over whether to increase funding considerably for public schools. The Washington Post reported last week that Hogan is planning to raise more than $2 million in so-called “dark money” to fight the plan.

Meanwhile, the Maryland teachers’ union led all lobbying efforts in Annapolis last General Assembly session, spending $784,000 to support efforts to increase funding for education. The union also announced Monday it planned to run $500,000 in television ads to support funding for public schools.

Mileah Kromer, director of the Hughes Center, noted the poll also showed a majority of Marylanders ― 77% ― know nothing about the work of the Kirwan commission, the state panel studying how best to improve Maryland’s public schools.

“The good news for Democrats is there’s a built-in level of support for increasing funding for education that they can activate,” Kromer said. “The bad news is people are largely unaware of what Kirwan is or does.”

The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education — nicknamed the “Kirwan commission” — is recommending free, full-day prekindergarten for low-income 3- and 4-year olds; increasing standards so all students are ready for college or a career upon graduating high school, and establishing a strong accountability system to oversee its recommendations.

But the effort to spend billions more in taxpayer dollars — without an identified funding stream — has been met with skepticism by Republicans, who warn against raising taxes.

“Both these factions will be trying desperately to educate the public about Kirwan,” Kromer said.

Meanwhile, the Goucher poll showed opinion about the direction of the state has fallen to its lowest point since Hogan took office in 2015; 46% say Maryland is heading in the right direction and 35% say Maryland is on the wrong track.

At this time last year, 54% said Maryland was heading in the right direction.

Even so, the poll found Hogan continues to be viewed favorably by a majority of Marylanders: 64% approve of the job the governor is doing, while just 14% disapprove.

The telephone poll of 763 Marylanders had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

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