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Our Turn: The Prop. 123 lesson we shouldn’t learn

by Pearl Chang Esau and Thomas Franz

An open letter to Arizona education supporters:

Arizona’s educators and students are our state’s greatest resource, and regardless of how you voted on Proposition 123, we deeply appreciate your daily efforts to ensure every student has access to a world-class education.

Over the last six months, we heard from hundreds of people around the state on both sides of the Prop. 123 debate. Expect More Arizona supported the measure and is pleased that Prop. 123 passed because Arizona’s schools need funding now.

Over the next few months, more than $500 million will flow into classrooms, providing raises for thousands of teachers across the state and additional resources to schools to improve student achievement.

We had to work together – and that’s good

However, Prop. 123 has been divisive even among those who share our vision for a world-class education for every child. Because compromise is about both give and take, the process has not been easy. But there are some things we should all celebrate beyond the $3.5 billion schools will receive over the next 10 years.

Parties on both sides of the inflation funding lawsuit had to step outside of their comfort zones to get Prop. 123 on the ballot and had to work together to see it pass. This is something we don’t often see, but should strongly encourage. Working across the aisle and through differences in perspective is never easy, but if we can do that more often and with the best interest of our students in mind, Arizona will benefit greatly.

Prop. 123 also had the effect of building a bipartisan coalition of parents, educators, elected officials, community and business leaders who are working diligently to support increased funding for education in Arizona. As a result, the coalition around education is larger, stronger and more diverse than ever, and we hope it continues to grow.

It’s not whether schools need more money

That the vote was so close does not mean support for education is lukewarm. In fact, numerous polls tell us that support for education funding and increasing teacher pay is at an all-time high, across political parties.

Some education advocates simply wished to address education funding in a different way. It’s important we all make sure Arizona’s teachers understand this is a difference in opinion about how to get schools more money, not about whether they need or deserve it.

While we should celebrate this win for education today, we know that our work is just beginning.

Come together – we need to do more

Proposition 123 is an important first step toward increased K-12 funding, but we’ve always known we need to do more. Now that the election is behind us, we need to come back together and forge the road to a long-term solution to increase education funding that focuses on equity and excellence in student achievement.

It will be up to all of us to work together and hold our elected leaders accountable to make sure we have the necessary funding to recruit and retain great teachers; support our universities and community colleges, improve the literacy rates of our third-grade students and ensure high standards and meaningful accountability.

We can do that in the short-term by voting in the August primary election and in the November general election to support a world-class education for every child. Your vote and your voice matter.

Pearl Chang Esau is president and CEO of Expect More Arizona. Tom Franz is chairman of the board of directors for Expect More Arizona and previously served as CEO of Greater Phoenix Leadership.