Opinion: Two years ago, I opposed Invest in Education. Here’s why I’ve changed my mind.
Marisol Garcia, an eighth-grade social studies teacher in the Isaac School District and vice president of the Arizona Education Association, stands by boxes containing the 435,669 signatures for the InvestInEd ballot initiative that were turned in at the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office at the state Capitol in Phoenix on July 2, 2020. (Photo: David Wallace/The Republic)
Here, finally, is where the rubber meets the road for Arizona’s children.
Should we raise taxes to boost funding for public schools? Or is the state’s current investment in their (and our) future good enough?
Supporters of Proposition 208 will tell you that it’s time, finally, to Invest in Education.
As long as we can do it with someone else’s money.
Opponents of Proposition 208 will tell you that if voters raise taxes on the richest among us, Arizona’s economy will make like a tumbleweed and bounce off into the sunset.
So what to do?
Arizona students have been the losers
There’s no doubt that Arizona’s children have been the losers over the last decade.
A generation of kids has come and gone since our leaders slashed funding for schools. When the Great Recession eased, our governor and Legislature opted to cut corporate taxes rather than restore funding to public education.
The result has been schools that are falling apart, textbooks that are woefully outdated and overcrowded classes taught by under qualified teachers.
Gov. Doug Ducey’s 20by2020 plan to raise teacher pay — a plan brought forth only after tens of thousands of fed-up educators were taking to the streets — was a start. But it was only a start given the magnitude of damage done over the last decade.
Despite those raises, Arizona teacher pay remains low when compared with other states and teachers continue to bolt. Our schools offer one counselor for every 905 students — a ratio that is nearly twice the national average of 455:1.
Schools are still $1 billion short
Ducey has assured us he can grow us out of the hole in which our public schools live, ignoring the fact that corporate tax cuts have siphoned away hundreds of millions of dollars in just the last few years. Ignoring the fact that tax credits and vouchers for private schools are draining hundreds of millions from the schools each year.
Ignoring the fact that even the governor’s own business advisers have said a tax hike is needed to pull the schools out of the hole.
“From a business perspective, properly funding education is probably the greatest economic development thing we can do in our state,” Kitchell CEO Jim Swanson, chairman of Ducey’s Classrooms First Initiative, wrote in 2017. “We need to work on a plan, and the time is now.”
That was three years ago.
Since then, Ducey and the Legislature have added roughly $1 billion back into the schools — because the courts and the court of public opinion have demanded