Arizona Public Schools did receive a boost in funding in the state budget passed last week by the Arizona Legislature (with only Republican votes) and signed by Governor Ducey.
Does this boost in funding fully satisfy all public school needs for the 2019/20 school year? No, it does not. Apparently, Republicans felt a close to $400,000,000 tax cut was a better fiscal choice than fully funding schools.
Does this boost bring public school funding back up to 2008 budget levels? No, it does not and it is 2019 (schools should be funded according to the needs for 2019/20 not 11 years ago).
How will schools get the monies they need so they can properly serve children who desperately need a modern first-rate education.
One idea may be to revisit submitting a ballot initiative for the voters to decide that would raise the funds necessary to adequately finance the state’s public schools.
In 2018, the Invest in Ed ballot initiative appeared to command the support of the majority of the citizens of the state and probably would have passed in the elections of November, 2018 had the Ducey packed Supreme Court not removed it from consideration because the majority of the court members felt that the tax bracket clauses of the initiative were not worded clearly.
Is it time for a revised and updated Invest in Ed 2.0 Ballot Initiative that funds the funding gaps the state’s public schools are suffering from.
Most people would probably say yes.
Remember, most people and education activists supported the first Invest in Ed proposition and it probably would have passed in the November 2018 Elections had the Arizona Supreme Court not invalidated it.
On the possibility of a new Invest in Ed Ballot Initiative, one of the candidates for Maricopa County School Superintendent Jennifer Samuels wrote that:
“I was grateful to have been a part of Invest in Ed as a signature collector. I look forward to fully funded schools and support any proposition that accomplishes lowering class sizes while supporting students and educators.”
The other Democratic Candidate for Maricopa County School Superintendent Jeanne Casteen remarked that:
“I would absolutely support another #InvestInEd movement here in Arizona. Working class people have been expected to foot the bill for education for too long. Whether it is a $0.01 sales tax or a six-tenths-of-a-cent sales tax, everyday Arizonans are the ones funding education. The voters spoke loud and clear in 2018 when #InvestInEd collected almost 300,000 signatures to increase taxes for the wealthiest Arizonans that would have raised an estimated $680 million annually. Not surprisingly, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce fought tooth and nail against this initiative, and with Doug Ducey’s hand-picked Supreme Court, the measure was challenged, and ultimately removed from the ballot.
I support the #InvestInEd movement and understand the importance of fully funding education, but it’s clear that our Republican-led legislature, governor, and supreme court will block any measures taken to do so. This means that keeping the movement going, and encouraging its supporters to focus on the 2020 election is vital to the success of increasing educational funding. The critical elections are happening at the school board, state legislative district, and county level races, and we need to show support for those pro-education candidates. The Republicans in our legislature have outnumbered progressive, public education advocates for too long, but now, we have a strong chance to get a Democratic majority by electing pro-education candidates to their local school board races and in places like LD 23, where Eric Kurland has a real shot at grabbing a house seat, or in LD 28, where Christine Marsh only lost her bid in 2018 by 267 votes.
The power to turn things around with regards to education in Arizona doesn’t just exist in the #RedForEd or #InvestInEd movement, but in all of us who believe that change can happen when people roll up their sleeves and work for it at the grassroots level. At a Stand Indivisible AZ meeting this past weekend, it was inspiring to see the huge gains Democrats have made with voter registration and turnout in districts that are traditionally red. Conversely, some of the lowest voter turnout is happening right here in Central Phoenix, in districts that have been blue for decades, so we need to engage those voters who may feel underrepresented or marginalized. We need progressive folks to commit to volunteering, knocking doors, and becoming active at the school district, legislative district, and county level. The people have spoken about how they feel about education funding in Arizona, now is the time to elect those candidates who will actually support the will of the people, and advocate for their common good.”
When asked to comment on a new ballot initiative after the finalization of the Arizona State Budget, Arizona Center for Economic Progress Head and former Democratic Leader David Lujan (one of the original Invest in Ed advocates) commented that:
“We, the Invest in Ed partners, have said since the beginning of the session that if the legislature did not do its job in enacting at least $1 billion in new, sustainable investments for public education that we would be prepared to pursue a ballot initiative in 2020. Obviously, the legislature did not come up with the needed new investments so we are now listening to teachers, parents, voters, and other stakeholders with the goal of having a plan finalized and ready in later fall or early winter.”
Arizona’s Public Schools have not been properly funded since 2008. The State has continually been ranked towards the bottom in education spending when compared to the other 50 states. Students, instructors, school administrators, school staff, parents, and community stakeholders deserve better. Arizona and its people cannot progress very far in a positive forward direction, economically, socially, or culturally, if our schools are not modern beacons for children to thrive in.
If the state government cannot properly fund public schools, it is time for the voters to consider an Invest in Ed 2.0 Ballot Initiative.
Let the people and not the courts vote on it this time.