Now that Prop. 123 has passed, a coalition of Arizona educators, business leaders and parents say the next step is increasing funding for K-12 public education by at least the $1.2 billion legislators have cut since the Great Recession.
It’s a move supported by 76 percent of Arizona voters polled after the election Tuesday. They said state funding for public schools should be increased.
“There are many, many other school-funding issues and schools issues we need to work on,” Dana Wolfe Naimark, president and CEO of Children’s Action Alliance said at the AZ Schools Now! coalition news conference Monday morning.
But the group is asking lawmakers to focus on three specific goals for next year and beyond:
- Sustain a workforce of qualified teachers with competitive salaries and quality professional development.
- Provide critical tools for classrooms with supplies an updated textbooks and technology by restoring the school additional assistance funding for districts and charters.
- Fix crumbling school buildings to give students safe, clean and functional places to learn by fully funding repair and maintenance.
“We have a very real crisis going on in our schools, and governing boards across the state are trying to figure out what to do about those things,” said Julie Bacon, president-elect of the Arizona School Boards Association Board of Directors.
Bacon encouraged voters to ask their local school board members about the needs in their communities, both the funding gaps that remain and their long-term vision for our public schools and student success.
You must reach out to your legislators and the governor about all of these challenges,” said Bacon, a member of Paradise Valley Unified School District’s governing board.
With four more days of school left in Paradise Valley Unified, the district “still has 30 open teaching positions that have never been filled,” but Bacon said she knows the teacher shortage story even more dire in other parts of Arizona.
A majority of Arizona school districts have crumbling infrastructure – broken HVAC, failing roofs, and condemned buildings on campus “that cannot be torn down because of a lack of state money to do so,” Bacon said, yet “those buildings house our most precious resource, every single day – our kids.”
Poll: Prop.123 is not enough
Yes voters who responded to the exit poll on Tuesday said they voted to Prop. 123 to give schools needed funding, but 49 percent of them said they do not think the measure provides enough funding for public education. The poll was conducted by Lake Research Partners and sponsored by Arizona Education Association, Children’s Action Alliance and Friends of ASBA.
One person said they voted yes on Prop.123, “because our schools are underfunded and I think this is a good way to get the money.”
Another person polled said “I’m so frustrated with education here, and I voted yes so education can get the money needed.”
“We can’t force the government to do the right things, so we settle for what they give us,” another person said.
No voters said they were upset by the source of funds and the change in the state trust land distribution, and 44 percent of them said the measure does not provide enough funding, according to the poll.
One person said they voted no on Prop. 123, because “We need a better plan to fund education.”
“It just seems like the legislators are trying a quick fix instead of doing what they need to do,” another person polled said.
Voters said the state legislature was doing a fair to poor job, and more of those who said they voted no on Prop.123 rated legislators as performing poorly.
Coalition members said they will make increased funding for public education their main focus in this year’s legislative races, and urge voters to scrutinize legislators voting records and candidate’s platforms, according to an article in The Arizona Republic.
Gov. Doug Ducey’s spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said the governor plans to meet with education advocates in the coming weeks to discuss the next steps in school funding, and said one item they’ll be discussing is the 2020 expiration of the half-cent sales tax in Prop. 301 that was approved by voters in 2002 that currently provides nearly $450 million a year for schools, according to an Associated Press article.
Coalition members say the increased funding would ensure public schools have the resources to help students succeed, which will develop a skilled workforce for a strong state economy.
“The breadcrumbs are there on what we need to reinvest to our schools. The money is there. It is time to act on that,” said Joe Thomas, newly elected president of the Arizona Education Association in a story on KJZZ 91.5 FM. “And we are willing to act on anybody, to stand with anybody to put those resources back in our schools. That would support our schools and our students.”