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Leaders have duty to maintain, develop education

by Justice Sandra Day OConnor ret. Paul J. Luna Lattie Coor and Don Budinger

Please read this article published in today’s Arizona Republic by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (ret.), Paul J. Luna, Lattie Coor and Don Budinger.

The recent launch of the Arizona Education Commitment by the O’Connor House and Expect More Arizona has succeeded in initiating a critically important conversation: the Arizona Constitution prioritizes education, and Arizona’s leaders have a duty to uphold that mandate.

The Arizona Education Commitment’s partners and initial supporters, although persistent in stating that revenue enhancements in addition to prudent cuts must be part of the conversation in addressing our state’s budget deficit, are being criticized for not providing specific recommendations on how to solve Arizona’s financial woes.

The truth be told, they have.

Article XI, Section 10 of the Arizona Constitution clearly states that the Legislature must not only properly maintain but also develop and improve all of our state’s educational institutions, by taxation if necessary.

There are three basic forms of taxation: transactions such as sales, income tax and property taxes. Over the history of our great state, the Arizona Legislature and voters have levied taxes of all three forms to pay for vital public services, sharing this necessary burden among businesses and individuals.

The Arizona Legislature is elected by the people of our state, and the members have taken an oath to uphold the Arizona Constitution. The Arizona Education Commitment shines a spotlight on the only significant appropriation identified in our state’s governing document: the preservation of our state’s educational institutions. As a result, the Legislature has a duty to figure out which mix of revenue-generating solutions, paired with thoughtful and strategic cuts, is best for education and the long-term prosperity of Arizona.

As individuals who care deeply about ensuring Arizona has a strong and vital economy far into the future, we believe education is one of the most critical investments we can make today. By making education a priority, we have the ability to increase aggregate income, enabling our leaders to take care of vital public-health and safety services as well.

The framers of Arizona’s Constitution believed education was a cornerstone of our state. Today’s leaders are now required to ensure that cornerstone is protected and preserved. We encourage more Arizonans to join us and other concerned citizens in elevating the constitutional prioritization of education and the expectation for our leaders to look at all options as they make critical decisions to solve our state’s budget crisis.

Learn more and sign on at ArizonaEducationCommitment.org.

Sandra Day O’Connor is a former U.S. Supreme Court justice and founder of O’Connor House. Paul Luna is chairman of Expect More Arizona and president and CEO of the Helios Education Foundation. Lattie Coor is a former Arizona State University president and chairman and CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona. Don Budinger is chairman and founding director of the Rodel Foundation of Arizona.

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