Think establishing a household budget with your family is tough? Try managing the varied interests of nearly 7 million people. Setting a budget for a state as diverse as Arizona is an unenviable task.
The state budgeting process for next fiscal year (July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018) is currently underway. The Governor and the State Legislature allocate state resources based on estimated revenue collection. Once approved by both the House and the Senate, budget bills are sent to the Governor. The Governor may either sign the bills, let them go into effect without a signature, or veto the bills.
During the budget process, it’s good for elected leaders to hear from their constituents about what’s important. Expect More Arizona wants to ensure every child receives an excellent education, every step of the way and we’re working down at the Capitol to make sure Arizona’s leaders prioritize students and teachers. Here’s a look at our FY18 budget priorities.
Teacher Recruitment and Retention
High-quality teachers are the most important factor to improve student achievement, which is why teacher recruitment and retention, including teacher pay, is a top priority.
We are happy to see that new funding for teacher recruitment and retention is part of the conversation this year. Considerations include teacher signing bonuses, student loan forgiveness, and more. In particular, we support Senate Bill 1034, which appropriates $250,000 to the Teacher Student Loan Program and Senate Bill 1038 which creates a professional development program and allocates $300,000 for its pilot.
However, when it comes to teacher pay, we believe teachers should be paid more. It is not acceptable that Arizona ranks 50th in the nation for median teacher pay. Neighboring states like Nevada are actively recruiting our teachers because they are able to pay them nearly $13,500 more a year. If we expect student achievement to improve and our communities to thrive, Arizona’s teacher salaries must be competitive with other states.
We understand that the scope of this problem is too big to address in the FY18 budget alone. Arizona leaders must pursue a long-term solution to ensure that Arizona teacher salaries are competitive, which will largely rely on the renewal and expansion of Proposition 301.
Expect More Arizona is working with a diverse group of committed educators and partners to set a goal for teacher pay in Arizona. Knowing where we need to go will help us chart a course to get there.
A student’s ability to read at grade level by the end of third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success (Campaign for Grade Level Reading). Expect More Arizona and our partners have worked hard to get new funding allocated for programs and strategies that are proven to improve reading proficiency in third grade. Therefore, we strongly support the proposed $10 million for low-income schools to use toward full-day Kindergarten or other early literacy interventions to increase the numbers of third graders proficient in reading.
In addition, we’re supporting Senate Bill 1131, which will improve Move on When Reading, and House Bill 2202, which will create a dyslexia handbook to assist with early identification and intervention for struggling readers. (Note: SB1131 was signed by the Governor on 3.31.17)
Education isn’t just about students and teachers. The strength of our education system impacts our economy and overall quality of life. Arizona’s community colleges play a key role in developing a ready workforce and our university system is leading research and development efforts that are driving our innovation economy.
That’s why Expect More Arizona supports $15 million for Arizona’s universities to educate resident students and $37 million to enable their bonding capacity to improve infrastructure to support research and development. We also encourage the state to reinvest in our community colleges.
You Have an Opportunity to Weigh In on the Budget Process
Use our easy advocacy tool to email your elected officials and share your budget priorities.
For a more detailed look at our 2017 Advocacy Priorities, visit our website.