The Grand Canyon Institute reports that a $2 billion increase in Arizona’s annual funding of K-12 public education is needed to improve high school graduation rates, improve math and reading levels, and raise the number of Arizonans who have a 2- or 4-year degree.

“Arizona has run an austerity budget since the Great Recession,” said Dave Wells, the Institute’s research director. “Achieving the Arizona Education Progress Meter’s goals by 2030 requires new and dedicated funding source There are not sufficient funds from economic growth or potential fund sweeps or savings from other government services to meet these needs.


The Grand Canyon Institute (GCI), an independent, nonpartisan think tank, conducted its analysis based on educational goals defined in the Arizona Education Progress Meter. The goals were established by Expect More Arizona and The Center for the Future of Arizona. 

The $2.1 billion annual increase in public education funding identified by GCI’s research includes investments in:

  • Early Childhood Education — $200 million to meet the needs of children under the poverty line to improve their success in school
  • Teacher Salaries — $686 million to provide a $10,000 flat raise to Arizona’s teachers to address what may be the worst teacher shortage in the country and maximize the recruitment and retention of young teaching professionals
  • Added Interventions—$250 million to achieve goals for third grade reaching, eighth-grade math and high school graduation
  • Refilling prior state investments: $991.million:
    • District Additional Assistance: $352 million
    • All-day Kindergarten: $265 million
    • New School Construction: $284 million
    • Building Renewal Funds: $90 million

Arizona Education Progress Meter

Arizona Education Progress Meter

Voodoo economics

Meanwhile, Gov. Ducey’s widely-scorned “20 x 2020” plan would give teachers a 20% raise by 2020 — including a 10% raise by 2018. It would restore recession-era cuts: $371 million in District Additional Assistance and Charter Additional Assistance, phased-in over five years with a $100 million investment in 2018.

Ducey has refused to meet with teachers leading the #RedForEd walkout or with Democratic legislators. Organizations like Save Our Schools and Arizona PTA have dropped their support for Ducey’s plan.

The Governor’s plan did not present a sustainable funding plan and included sweeping funds from services for the developmentally disabled and higher education, while relying on unrealistic projections of future revenue.

“It’s total voodoo economics,” said state Sen. Steve Farley, a member of the Senate’s Finance Committee. “The governor seems to be working the walkout for political gain as opposed to what’s best for people of Arizona. The fact is, the governor doesn’t care what happens. He’s just trying to get a plan to get through nov so he can get re-elected and then next year, and then the cuts will start.

Farley is challenging Ducey in the race for Governor, and recent polling shows he is in a dead heat with the Governor. Ducey has carried out the Koch brother’s devastating anti-education campaign so that Arizona ranks #49 among the states for teacher salaries and last for per-student education spending.

The Grand Canyon Institute identified six funding sources that the state must consider:

  1. Boosting the state income tax.
  2. Examining potential services for taxation.
  3. Increasing the state-education sales tax.
  4. Removing some of the recently-enacted corporate tax cuts.
  5. Reinstating a statewide property tax.
  6. Reviewing current state tax credits.

It’s been nearly 30 years since Arizona’s state legislature approved a tax increase. Individual tax rates have tumbled downward, and exemptions have increased. Meanwhile, corporate tax cuts have drastically reduced the revenue collected from businesses.

“GCI’s policy analysis provides lawmakers and education leaders with the funding requirements to guide a discussion regarding the resources the state realistically needs to commit to K-12 education. This information should be considered in the context of the demands put forward by the #REDforED movement,” said George Cunningham, chair of GCI’s board of directors.

Click for the full report, Getting Serious About K-12 Educational Goals Costs $2 Billion Annually, written by Dave Wells.