Education Funding vs. Tax Cuts

School Funding | 05/14/2019

Rebecca Gau
Stand for Children Executive Director

Voters still believe we need to fund education more.

It’s been said that a budget is a moral document—one that shows what we truly prioritize. This rings true more and more as we enter the final stretch of the legislative session and lawmakers will be making some crucial decisions about the budget.

That’s why Stand for Children Arizona released a new poll which found Arizonans of all ideologies are still not happy with public education funding in Arizona.

Additionally, the poll results revealed that Governor Ducey is at risk of losing his narrow Republican majorities in the House and Senate in 2020 if he directs all of the budget surplus towards tax cuts and the rainy day fund instead of public education.

According to the poll, a majority (51%) of voters say they would be less likely to vote to re-elect their local state senator or representative if they voted to cut taxes instead of fund education, including 22% of Republicans and 52% of Independents.

Despite 73% of voters saying they’ve seen, heard, or read about Governor Ducey’s agreement last year with the state legislature to raise teacher pay—74% still say more needs to be done, including 57% of Republicans.

56% of Arizonans voted to re-elect Governor Ducey last November, but over half (56%) of those voters say that he is not doing enough to fund education.

Voters know funding education should be a priority and are willing to remind lawmakers at the ballot box. However, state lawmakers have a real opportunity to prioritize education and show voters they are listening by crafting a budget that prioritizes public education.

You can read the full memo here.

What should be done with the budget surplus?

That’s the million dollar question—or more accurately, the roughly 100 million dollar question—that we asked voters in our recent poll.

We asked voters how a hypothetical $100 million should be allocated between funding education, tax breaks, and the rainy day fund. On average, they said they would allocate 52% to education, 27% toward tax breaks, and 22% toward the rainy day fund.

Notably, even among Republicans, funding education was the most popular choice. Republicans said that 39% should go toward education, 35% should go toward tax breaks, and 26% should go toward the rainy day fund.

Ultimately, the reality is that we need money to go both into the rainy day fund and public education, but the urgency of the education funding and teacher shortage crisis calls for action now. Our teachers are still leaving the profession. We still rank near the bottom of the nation in teacher pay—45th to be exact—and we need to find a way to accelerate the funding passed by the legislature last year. Fortunately, we are in a budget position where lawmakers can listen to voters and prioritize education while making smart fiscal decisions for the future.

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