With $9 billion in the state's general fund "and revenues increasing," Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas says Arizona can afford increasing funding to education. She's calling on the state Legislator and Gov. Doug Ducey to immediately appropriate at least $400 million that would specifically be invested on teachers in the classroom, according to a press release from Douglas' office.
The proposal is one of many Douglas plans to unveil during her "AZ Kids Can't Afford to Wait!" campaign.
“As I traveled the state during the campaign, and then for several months on my 'We Are Listening' tour, the number one concern I heard was the lack of funding and support for teachers,” Douglas said in a media statement. “After seeing revenues so far above forecasts just a few months into this fiscal year, I believe that Arizonans can no longer afford to wait to provide higher quality education to our children."
She suggests using Proposition 301
(in 2000, Arizona voters passed an initiative that allows for a sales tax to contribute to education funding. The money would go towards increasing teachers' salaries, reward "high performing" teachers, among other areas) to identify which teachers are "eligible recipients." The $400 million, she says, could be spent on teacher salaries, hiring more teachers to reduce classroom sizes, or a combination based on local needs.
“We don’t need court cases and lawsuits to fund our school system, we need commitment and leadership. I applaud the efforts of the Governor and the Legislature to increase overall funding and to focus on classroom spending. However, the 8-year-olds who were trying to read when the 'temporary' cut to the 2 percent increase was made in 2009 will all graduate or drop out before having their funding restored under all the current plans being considered," Douglas says. “We have an entire generation of children for whom over $1 billion dollars of education was not provided. We can never go back and provide that education to them. How many more children must suffer the same fate before the leaders of our state truly prioritize education?"
From the press release:
The proposal calls for $400 million from the general fund to be appropriated by the Legislature and the Governor in a special session. It does not count any current funding against that number, nor does it envision any changes to First Things First funding. If the Governor’s state land trust plan is approved by the Legislature and the people in some form, any land trust education revenues in excess of 2.5 percent would count toward the figure, so long as the State Treasurer verifies the expenditure would not deplete the corpus of the land trust.
The Superintendent will also be working with Arizona’s Congressional delegation over the next several years to return federal lands to our state, so that the state land trust corpus can grow through land use leases and the sale of new lands. However, the core of the proposal is that under any circumstances, the entire $400 million must be made available every year with no drop off in the future. Schools cannot hire teachers and make plans if they cannot count on having the money available.