Prop 123: Show Me The Money!

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

Since the passage of Proposition 123, I’ve heard people ask where the money went. Did it really go to raise the salaries of Arizona’s teachers?

An August 2016 survey on Prop. 123 funding conducted by the Arizona School Boards Association and the Arizona Association of School Business Officials had 83 school districts (representing over half of Arizona’s students) respond. The survey largely reinforced the narrative that adequate compensation to attract and retain teachers towers as the top priority statewide. Most of the districts concentrated their Prop. 123 funding in teacher and staff bonuses for FY2016, and a full 74% of districts budgeted the additional FY2017 funds for the same.

Survey responses from across the state (21% urban, 24% suburban, 53% rural and 2% remote) affirmed the varied needs of our district schools and for locally elected governance. In some cases, the funding priorities were supplies, textbooks, technology and school building maintenance and repair, all of which support the learning environment.The need to buy essential supplies and services with the funds should surprise no one. After all, the Arizona Legislature has cut more than $2 billion in district funding since FY2009. In addition to impacting the ability to fund the needs listed above, the cuts eliminated state funding for full-day kindergarten and ninth grade career and technical education students. Let’s not forget Prop. 123 provided no new funding to help offset these cuts. Rather, only 70% of what the voters had already mandated and the courts adjudicated. It was better than nothing, but after years of hollowing out district resources, the funding was rapidly absorbed by the many pressing needs districts had long deferred.

One clear example of those pressing needs is the severe teacher shortage facing Arizona. A recent survey of 130 school districts and charter schools conducted by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association found almost 8,200 teacher openings for the 2016-2017 school year. By August 28, 2016, 47% of these remained vacant or were filled by individuals not meeting standard teacher requirements.

With fewer college students pursuing a teaching career and a wave of teachers soon eligible for retirement, this problem is only going to get worse and is proof positive that Prop. 123 was not the solution, just a step in the right direction. Almost three-fourths of Arizona’s registered voters agree, stating in a recent Arizona Republic/Morrison Institute/Cronkite News poll they believe the state is spending “too little” on K-12 education.

Yes, Prop. 123 was a critical infusion of funding allowing districts some ability to more appropriately compensate our teachers and support other critical needs. Let’s be real, though. It didn’t even move Arizona out of our 48th place for per pupil funding which would have required double the funding from Prop. 123. That’s why Support Our Schools AZ and the Arizona Parent Network support funding for our district schools that ensures equity (regardless of ZIP code) and stability (critical to continuity of staffing and programming, which enables more effective operations.) State-provided funding and other support should respect that choice.

Our district educators have done more and more with less and less for many years, and ultimately, our students are the ones who suffer the lack of certified teachers in their classroom, higher class sizes, narrowed curricula, outdated technology and rundown facilities. It is incumbent upon each of us to remember those students when we vote today. The bottom line is if we want different results, we need to elect different candidates — pro-public (district) education candidates!

3 responses to “Prop 123: Show Me The Money!

  1. “Prop. 123 was not the solution, just a step in the right direction. ”

    I’m not even sure that Proposition 123 was a step in the right direction from a long-term perspective. As best I understood it, Proposition 123 increased funding by increasing the withdrawal rates from the State’s Public Land Trust from 2.5% to 6.9% for the next 10 years. As most finance, accounting, or economics students will correctly point out – 6.9% is not a long-term sustainable withdrawal rate and will lead to a decrease in the principal over all but the rosiest of economic forecasts, which means that when the 10 years are over, we’ll actually be worse off than we were prior to 123.

    Certainly a deceptive ad campaign sponsored by Cox & Friends to ‘Fund Our Schools Without Raising Taxes’ (TM). If elected, I’d like to rescind the corporate income tax cuts the legislature keeps handing out to big business and use that to properly fund our district schools instead of relying on short-term gimmicks that damage our district schools’ long-term prospects.

  2. “After all, the Arizona Legislature has cut more than $2 billion in district funding since FY2009.

    Was this a real cut in funding, as in you had $4 billion allocated and budgeted and the Legislature took $2 billion back? Or, was it simply a cutback in the funding requested, as in you asked for $4 billion but were only given $2 billion? There is a big difference between the two.

    • John Huppenthal

      The spending per year by Arizona schools went down by about $400 million per year from 2011 to 2015.

      However, this was also a period of remarkable academic growth. Our African American students went from 6th on the NAEP (gold standard of academic measurement) to 1st. Yes, first, our African American eighth grade math scores were better than those of all 49 other states. Our Hispanic scores went from 35th to 11th and our white student scores went from 2oth to 6th.

      Our combined math and reading gains were the highest in the nation.