Arizona is ranked 49th in Education Funding in the United States.
The Grand Canyon State, despite funding increases over the last several years, is still not financing schools, in 2020, at 2008 Pre Recession levels.
Currently, median teacher salaries are “second to lowest” in the country.
One-quarter of Arizona’s classrooms are either without an instructor or are led by an unqualified one.
There is a 905 to 1 student to counselor ratio.
Class sizes in Arizona’s classrooms are among the largest in the nation.
School Districts have seen an increase from $30 million to $80 million in the school building, renovation, and maintenance funds. These increases are grossly insufficient because educators complain they have needed two billion over the last decade to keep up with construction and upgrade needs.
School Safety Grant funding requests far surpassed the actual amount allocated.
As Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman stated in her State of Education speech to the House Committee on Education on February 3, 2020 “a State of Emergency for our Education System.”
Some bright spots from the Governor and Legislature
To be fair, there have been some positive signs from Governor Ducey’s office and state legislators. There has been a movement in released proposed budgets to:
- Increase Education Funding including restoration of district additional assistance.
- Fully funding all the school safety grant requests from this year.
- Markedly increasing special education funding.
- Expansion of the Teachers Academy to include counselor preparation.
- Promote Innovative and promising programs like Project Rocket to help raise student achievement levels.
Unfortunately, these measures from the Republican side, while a step in the right direction, still do not fully fund schools at 2008 levels.
Remember this is 2020.
Schools need to be funded at 2020 levels.
Two New Ballot Initiatives are Unveiled to Add More Funds to Education.
On the day of the Governor’s State of the State Address, education activists unveiled a new Invest in Ed Ballot Initiative.
This proposal, similar in aims to one championed in 2018, would place a three and a half percent surcharge on the wealthiest one percent of Arizona residents to raise 940 million dollars annually in additional revenues for the state’s K-12 public schools.
The leaders behind this new proposal feel the language in this measure (in contrast to the 2018 version,) after legislative counsel review will withstand any scrutiny from the Arizona Courts.
Republican lawmakers, not wanting to unfairly tax their donor base have put forth a counter ballot proposal that would tax everyone else instead.
They propose an expansion of the 301 Sales Tax to a full penny that would raise $400 million annually in new funds for K-12 schools and colleges.
Abe Kwok of AZ Central has put forth two articles examining the “pros and cons” of both proposals should both of them make it to the ballot for voters to consider.
In essence, Invest in Ed raises more money by taxing the top one percent and comes closest to fully fund the K-12 needs of the state’s schools. It does not provide appropriations for the state’s community colleges and universities.
The proponents of the Proposition 301 expansion would include more monies for the states community colleges and universities but at an estimated $400 million in generated new revenue, would not come close to fully funding the needs of any level of education. Its tax measure (although only a penny) is also regressive in nature because the volume of the receipts will come from lower and middle-class individual or family purchases.
What to do if both Proposals make the November Ballot? Just Say Yes to Both Ballot Measures.
It is a pity both sides can not come together and forge a compromise ballot measure that fully funds the K-20 State School System and maybe reduce the amount of the surcharge a little in exchange for a reduction in the 301 tax expansion.
It is regrettable they cannot do this at the Legislative level either.
Unfortunately, one of the political parties (starts with an R) thinks compromise is a bad word. They will also likely resort to any possible permissible tactic to stop the new Invest in Ed Act from getting on the ballot or becoming law.
What should people do if both ballot measures make it for the voters to consider on the November 3, 2020, elections?
To avoid any confusion, VOTE YES ON BOTH BALLOT MEASURES.
Arizona’s K-20 school system has been fed starvation funding for close to 12 years.
It faces a crisis with regards to:
- A devasting teacher, counselor, and support staff shortage.
- Crumbling school buildings and infrastructure.
- Higher and higher class sizes.
Schools could use the 1.3 billion in the combined funding these propositions will provide to start to make up for the 12 years of funding crumbs the Republican Governor and legislature has given them.
Teach the reactionaries in the legislature who have put tax cuts over fully investing in the future a lesson they will never forget and vote yes to both ballot measures that will add more funds to Arizona’s Public Education System.
It is time the children in Arizona were given the fully-funded high-quality public education they richly deserve.
Just Vote Yes Twice on November 3, 2020.