Education is the top issue among Arizona’s voters, and the amount of funding schools receive is at the heart of their concerns. Poll after poll this year indicates the trend in voter sentiment, which is also a foundation of Stand For Children Arizona’s policy agenda for the next three years.
To put it simply, our goal is to increase the base funding per pupil back to its 2008 levels by July 1, 2019 without supplanting other revenue sources for schools. The state base level support for students should be at least $4,350 per student. Although the average per pupil funding from all sources is a much higher number, the funding sources that determine how much money a district actually gets per student are diverse and complicated. We think those systems need to be simplified, and more transparent.
We think that’s a good trade off: slightly higher state-level commitment in return for more clear accountability for districts and charters in how their tax-payer funds are generated and spent.
The Governor’s budget proposal, released today and available here reflects “cautious optimism” that the state is back on track with increased revenues, a structurally balanced budget, and the opportunity to target other investments back into education. It reflects targeted investments in school capital, Career and Technical Education, college and career readiness, and the state’s data system. We support these investments and will provide more information as details get hashed out at the legislature.
Importantly, the Governor’s budget proposal also reflects about $350 per student in base level support increases by 2017 ($300 in 2016 and $50 in 2017). This takes us from $3,600 in 2016 (if Prop 123 passes, which we support) to $3,650 in 2017. This is short of our goal toward adding back the $1,000 per student that schools lost during the Great Recession, but slowly moving in the right direction.
Where will the other $700 million, or $700 per student come from?
One positive trend that the Governor’s office is releasing bodes well for the possibility of continued increases in general revenue support – an anticipated full economic recovery by 2019, with an anticipated state budget of about $10.5 billion. We know there are a lot of other infrastructure investments needed as revenues continue to increase, such as Child Protective Services, Public Safety, and higher education – but K-12 education needs to stay one of the top items on the list.
The state has had a slow recovery, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It is our hope that light shines brightest for the students who form the foundation of our workforce and economy. Investing in the hundreds of thousands of students who are at risk of dropping out and disengaging in Arizona’s workforce is critical to that economic future.
We hope you will join us in that goal. Please share the news for this year with your friends, and ask them to join us too.