Every year, Stand for Children Arizona, conducts a poll of Arizona voters asking them to weigh in on key issues facing education in the state. Our 2022 public opinion survey results reveal that the majority of Arizonans feel failed leadership in the legislature has negatively impacted our students and that “lack of adequate funding” is the biggest issue facing our schools.
Arizonans are unhappy with failed leadership and think schools need more funding, prompting many to support a fix for the AEL
- 57% of voters feel Arizona as a whole is on the wrong track, a 5% increase from Dec. 2021 and the worst sentiment since these polls began in 2019.
- When asked to evaluate how well the legislature is serving schools, 57% of voters gave a “D” or Failing grade, the worst result since that question was first asked in 2020.
- Voters feel “lack of adequate funding” is the biggest problem facing our schools – 19% chose it as the highest-ranking issue.
- When asked how much of a need there is for additional funding for Arizona’s public schools, 69% still feel there is “Great” or “Some” need – with over 51% saying there is “Great” need.
Not only do Arizonans feel dissatisfied with leadership, Arizonans are feeling let down by their own schools. When asked to evaluate Arizona’s public schools in grades K through 12:
- 44% of voters gave Arizona public schools a “D” or Failing grade
Now, when asked to evaluate schools in voters’ personal communities:
- This year, only 29% of voters gave their own schools an “A” or “B” grade – a full 5% drop since Dec. 2021 and the lowest since we began asking that question over five years ago.
Clearly, parents feel their schools are becoming less effective and less well supported by the legislature.
To fix the issue of state funding for education, many leaders and organizations have pointed to the outdated Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL) as a major obstacle to Arizona’s public schools providing a high-quality education that they can be proud of.
In June, the legislature passed and Governor Ducey approved a state budget that substantially increased investment in Arizona public schools. However, the nearly $1 billion allotted to public schools has yet to make it to classrooms due to the archaic spending cap. Stand for Children Arizona asked voters how they felt about dealing with the limit.
The survey suggests a ballot measure to resolve the AEL issue could be successfully passed
- When asked if there were a statewide ballot measure that would permanently raise the expenditure limit, 62% of Arizonans said they would vote “Yes” on it.
- When asked the same question, but for a ballot measure that would remove the limit altogether, 54% said they would vote “Yes.”
The polling then asked voters to respond to statements surrounding the AEL:
- 63% of Arizonans feel that “the state’s current budget process is cumbersome, bureaucratic, and out of touch with what schools really need to provide a high-quality education that we can be proud of” is a strong argument to eliminate the expenditure limit.
- 60% of Arizonans find the fact that “the spending limit creates undue financial stress and burden on our schools” is a strong argument to “raise the spending limit or remove it altogether.”
Arizonans want teachers to be able to teach.
- Voters feel teacher pay is the main reason to increase funding – 21% of voters who expressed schools had “Great” or “Some” need of additional funding said teacher pay was the main reason to increase funding.
They are also sympathetic to teacher’s need for academic freedom:
- 63% of surveyed Arizonans agree that teachers should be assured of academic freedom in setting curriculum without government interference in setting curriculum.
- 57% of voters agree with the statement that Arizona legislators “are trying to tie the hands of teachers by preventing them from teaching important topics that kids need to learn so we don’t repeat the mistakes of our past.”
Arizonans want investment in early learning.
- 68% of voters support establishing state funding for all-day Kindergarten in all Arizona public school districts and charters.
- 65% of voters support establishing state funding for pre-Kindergarten programs in all Arizona public school districts and charters.
Along with questions surrounding school performance and budget concerns, the survey included questions about how voters feel about the “wide array of administrative fees on youth and their families,” offering Arizonans the opportunity to share their thoughts on improving the justice system for our youth.
Arizonans support fairer treatment of kids in juvenile court
- A majority of surveyed Arizonans support a proposal to eliminate court administrative fees associated only with juvenile court – 51% support, 29% oppose, and 20% don’t know. To note: eliminating these administrative fees does not impact civil and criminal penalties or restitution for victims.
There are multiple supported justifications on eliminating these fees:
- 61% of voters feel “reforming the juvenile court system to eliminate burdensome administrative court fees does not mean that convicted offenders will be excused from having to pay civil penalties or restitution to victims” is a strong argument for eliminating all fees associated with juvenile court.
- 60% of Arizonans think a good reason to remove the financial burden of juvenile court fees on our youth is that “ultimately, a well-functioning juvenile court system will reduce the likelihood of those youth ending up in our state prisons in the future”.
As we turn the page to 2023, I think many former colleagues of mine can learn a lot from this data. When I served in the legislature, the findings of a survey like this were incredibly important. Now, I’m eager to apply this same insight into the work we are doing here at Stand for Children Arizona!
Clearly, Education remains a major focus for Arizonans, and voters support the Aggregate Expenditure Limit getting removed or, at the very least, raised. Also, it is relevant to point out that the legislature heads into 2023 with 54% of voters unhappy with their performance – the highest it has ever been in all of the years Stand for Children has surveyed the public. I’d hope that reasonable leaders will respond to the needs of Arizona and work together with our new Governor to support our students and teachers.
Click here to view detailed polling results.