We know good people on both sides of the Prop 123 debate. They are all dedicated to supporting education in Arizona. As we have thought about the issue, we’ve tried to put ourselves in the shoes of teachers and students across the state. Our schools have been under-resourced for far too long, our students don’t have updated textbooks, and our teachers are fleeing their profession because they cannot do the job they love while supporting their families. Our teachers and schools need resources now – they can’t wait.
We are supportive of Prop 123 because it is a step in the right direction. It does not propose to solve our education funding problems in Arizona, nor will it. However, it does settle the inflation funding lawsuit that has been pending for five years. Prop 123 represents a compromise between the Arizona School Boards Association, Arizona Education Association, the Arizona School Business Officials (representing Arizona educators and students), and elected leaders. Few compromises are ever perfect, but the outcome – Prop 123 – allows Arizona to put the lawsuit behind us, get money into schools immediately and move on to address the long-term funding solution needed to support education in Arizona, including early education, K-12 and post-secondary.
The funding proposed in Prop 123 is not enough, but passage of the ballot measure will provide a foundation we can build on to fight for the resources our children need to receive a great education in Arizona. Prop 123 gets much-needed funding to schools starting in June, which they can use immediately to retain teachers and support student learning. (See how much your local district or school will receive here.)
If Prop 123 fails, there is no plan B. Our schools will continue to struggle and teachers will continue to leave the classroom. Prop 123 is the only solution on the table right now, and we shouldn’t let it get away because of wishful thinking.
In addition, passage of Prop 123 will send a message to affirm, yet again, that Arizona voters support education. Multiple recent polls have shown that education, and particularly funding and teacher pay, are top priorities for Arizona voters. A recent poll of 400 business executives shows that a majority believe the top role of Arizona’s local and state policymakers is to invest in our education system. If Prop 123 fails, it will send the opposite message to our elected officials – that Arizonans believe our schools already have enough funding. As we talk with parents, community members, teachers and business leaders across the state we know this is simply not true. Support for education is at one of the highest points we’ve ever seen.
We need to support the passage of Prop 123 and then work together to craft a long-term solution for education in Arizona that will lead to excellence in student outcomes. A long-term solution should include:
- Renewing and updating Prop 301, which generates more than $600 million for education each year and expires in 2021
- Investing in our community colleges and universities – Maricopa and Pima Community Colleges now receive zero funding from the state and our universities sustained the largest cuts to any system in the country during the recession
- Funding to recruit, retain and support great teachers and school leaders – Schools and districts need resources to increase teacher compensation; implement professional development, mentoring and induction programs; and develop aspiring principals
- Responsible use of the state surplus dollars – There is currently $660 million in surplus dollars, part of which could be used to restore funding cuts from previous years
Another important next step will be for all of us to work together to hold our elected leaders accountable. In a recent article by the Arizona Republic, Governor Ducey committed to discussing what’s next for education funding. He also pledged to protect education in this year’s budget and in budgets going forward. This accountability applies not only to the Governor, but to all of our elected leaders at the state level.
We are starting to see small movements in the right direction. During this year’s legislative session, we’ve seen nearly $30 million restored to Arizona’s Joint Technical Education Districts to resolve a cut from the year prior. We are also hopeful that at the end of session this year universities will see their resident funding model supported with an additional $32 million in funding.
We have a great opportunity before us to get much needed funding into classrooms now and build stronger momentum for increased funding for the future. Let’s work together toward a positive outcome for Prop 123 on May 17, and then keep fighting for the long-term funding solution that is needed.
We need your help. There are a number of key opportunities to have your voice heard and to hold your elected leaders accountable this year and next, including:
- The legislature’s development of the FY17 budget (currently underway)
- Special election on May 17
- Primary election on August 30
- General election on November 8
- The development of future state budgets and legislation impacting education (Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, desegregation funding, etc.)
You can take the first step by emailing the Governor and your legislators to let them know you support Prop 123 as a first step, but that it must be accompanied by a long-term funding solution that is inclusive of the early grades, K-12 and post-secondary education.
To learn more about Prop 123, visit ExpectMoreArizona.org/YesOn123.