After one of the longest legislative sessions in the past decade, lawmakers approved an $11.8 billion budget on Memorial Day. The budget included a few increases for education - $136 million for textbooks, transportation, etc.; $20 million for school safety; and it ensured the second installment of the teacher pay raise plan, “20 by 2020.” But this is far from the funding needed to reverse the current teacher crisis.
We can’t help but imagine how much more lawmakers could have secured for our public schools and teachers. We had a $1 billion surplus at one time, higher than expected revenue that could have been used to restore education funding, but it wasn’t.
Instead, the budget included a net of about $240 million in tax cuts, as well as a large contribution to the state’s “Rainy Day Fund.”
Our legislators knew that more than half of voters would be less likely to re-elect their local state senator or representative if they voted to cut taxes instead of funding education. They knew that 88% of Arizonans believe there is a need for additional funding for our public schools.
Despite knowing this, they still decided to cut taxes instead of providing our schools with the funding they so desperately need. This type of politics is why our schools remain underfunded. This issue continues to be a political football, but it shouldn’t be.
New Census Bureau figures show that per-pupil spending in Arizona’s public schools was fourth-lowest in the nation in 2017. Our public schools deserve a source of long-term, predictable, and sustainable funding that will raise student achievement. One-time fixes and gimmicks aren’t working. We need to do what’s right.