AZ school funding challenges & possible solutions
Arizona’s public K-12 schools have faced significant school funding challenges since the Great Recession in 2008, but recent legislation, voter-approved ballot measures and some possible solutions could help restore some of that funding.
Arizona led the nation with 36.6 percent in cuts to state per-pupil funding for public K-12 schools from fiscal years 2008 to 2014, forcing many schools to cut expenses and student programs and services, according to a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report “After Nearly a Decade, School Investments Still Way Down in Some States” released on Oct. 20, 2016.
In response to those cuts, Arizonans’ have voted to approve Prop. 123 to partially restore inflation funding and approved bond and override elections to increase local funding.
But even with these efforts, state and local funding remained $1,300 less per pupil in fiscal year 2016 than in fiscal year 2008 when adjusted for inflation, said Dr. Anabel Aportela, director of research for Arizona Association of School Business Officials and Arizona School Boards Association.
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While there are ongoing threats to funding for Arizona’s public schools, there are several possible solutions that could restore some of that funding, Aportela said.
Arizona Democrat legislators talked about rolling back some of the corporate tax cuts scheduled to go into effect this year to increase state revenues and invest that money in education and social services, but no legislation to do so was approved, according to an article in the Arizona Capitol Times.
House Bill 2492 that would have provided sales tax breaks, a write down on tax charges on manufacturing equipment, tax credits for creating jobs and provide refunds on tax credits they other wise could not claim was voted down by state legislators, according to an article in The Arizona Republic.
Corporate income taxes now make up 4.9 percent of the general fund, which is half of the 9.7 percent they did in 2007. Increasing the corporate share just one percent would generate an additional $100 million in general fund revenues, Aportela said.
There was strong support among legislators for renewing Prop. 301 or increasing it before the session began this year.
Prop. 301 has a tremendous impact on Arizona classrooms and communities, and it’s renewal and expansion is an important part of the long-term education funding solution, said Expect More Arizona. Voters approved Prop. 301 in 2000 and it expires at the end of 2020.
Prop. 301’s six-tenths of a cent sales tax generated $668.9 million in sales tax revenues. If that was raised to 1 cent, then it could generate $1.1 billion, or if it was increased to 1.6 cents, then it could raise $1.8 billion, Aportela said.
Also, a proposal by the Arizona Business and Education Coalition would set an excise tax on electricity generation that would generate about $1.4 billion a year for education and cost residents about $143 more a year, according to an article in The Arizona Republic.