What you need to know about Proposition 204 - The Explorer: Columns

What you need to know about Proposition 204

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Dave Safier

Posted: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 4:00 am | Updated: 2:48 pm, Wed Sep 19, 2012.

Here’s the most important thing you need to know about Proposition 204: It will give our children increased opportunities for success in their educations and their lives. That translates to a brighter future for our children and for Arizona.

Here’s the most important thing you can do to guarantee those increased opportunities: Vote yes on Prop. 204.

Proposition 204 will renew the one cent sales tax we voted for three years ago. It’s not a new tax; it’s a renewed tax, so you won’t pay a penny more than today. But unlike the tax it’s replacing, it will guarantee more funds for our children’s educations. The previous tax just went into the general fund, which allowed the legislature to divert the money and cut funding for education. This time, the proposition mandates that the legislature spend at least as much on education as it did during 2011 or 2012, and the sales tax revenues will be added on top of that.

Those are the basic facts. Now for a little Q&A.

Question: Isn’t Arizona spending enough on education right now?

Answer: Arizona spends less per student than any other state in the nation. To our shame, during the past five years, we’ve slipped even further behind. Since 2008, we actually cut 21.8 percent from the amount we spend per student - more than any other state. It’s hard to believe, but it’s the truth. Even though we were already at the bottom, that didn’t stop the legislature from cutting more from education than anyone else.

Question: Will the one-cent sales tax generate enough funds to raise us from the bottom in per student spending?

Answer: No it won’t. Even with the new funds, we’ll still spend less per student than any other state. But the good news is the legislature won’t be able to cut any deeper and we will add desperately needed funds for our children’s education.

Question: If we spend more, will our children get a better education?

Answer: If the money is spent to reduce class sizes, replace outdated textbooks, update technology and give individual help to students who need it most, the answer is yes, our children will get better educations. While money doesn’t guarantee a quality education, too little money guarantees our students will be cheated out of the education they deserve.

On national tests, Arizona children score lower than similar children in other states. That’s true whether you compare children from high or low income families, children whose parents have college degrees or children whose parents didn’t complete high school. It’s true whether you compare Anglos, Hispanics or Native Americans. Is lack of funding the reason our children have lower educational attainment than similar children elsewhere? I can’t say for certain. But I know Arizona’s kids are every bit as capable as kids in other states, and our teachers work as hard for their students as teachers work everywhere. But with too many students in each class and too little in the way of teaching supplies and support staff, Arizona’s children are receiving a lower quality education than other children.

The one place I agree with some critics of the initiative is I don’t like sales taxes. They put too much of the burden on lower income families. Unfortunately, in our current anti-tax environment, there’s no way the legislature will pass a progressive income tax to pay for education, so this is the best we can do. Just keep in mind, it’s not a new tax, so no one will pay more when Prop. 204 passes. And a one cent tax only costs a family making $30,000 to $40,000 a year between $6 and $8 a month. That number goes down when a family’s income is lower. When you balance that relatively small burden against the opportunity for every child in Arizona to have an increased chance to end up better off than their parents, for me, there’s no contest.

(Editor’s Note: Dave Safier is a regular contributor to Blog for Arizona.)

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Welcome to the discussion.

3 comments:

  • Scooper posted at 6:52 pm on Tue, Sep 25, 2012.

    Scooper Posts: 13

    Right from the State Auditor General:
    Between fiscal years 2001 and 2009, Arizona’s total operational spending per pupil increased 47 percent before decreasing 5 percent between fiscal years 2009 and 2011. Despite this overall increase, Arizona’s per-pupil spending continues to trail the national average by nearly $2,700. Arizona districts also allocate resources differently than the national averages, spending lower percentages of available operating dollars on instruction and administration, and higher percentages on plant operations and student support services.

    Arizona’s state-wide average classroom dollar percentage in fiscal year 2011 was 54.7 percent, a record low since our Office began monitoring classroom dollars 11 years ago. Each year since fiscal year 2004, districts have decreased the percentage of their resources they allocated to the classroom. Further, this shift in spending out of the classroom accelerated in fiscal years 2010 and 2011.

     
  • RussellLowes posted at 6:46 am on Sat, Sep 22, 2012.

    RussellLowes Posts: 1

    A few responses to the commenter calling him/herself Scooper. . .
    David Safier is not taking an emotional crying approach as the commenter suggests. Maybe Scooper is very emotional about this issue, but clearly Safier is taking a very reasoned approach.
    Second, even if the JLBC is right, without these monies, our schools will go from last in the nation to a distant last in the nation.
    Third, the commenter suggests that David Safier is always wanting more tax dollars for education. Perhaps the commenter has not been paying attention. The entire time Safier has been doing these writings, AZ has been in the bottom 5 states, most recently in last place. When you have so little money for this entire time, it makes sense to be for more money for schools this entire time.
    I suggest the commenter get a grip on what has happened to the quality of education in Arizona.

     
  • Scooper posted at 5:46 am on Wed, Sep 19, 2012.

    Scooper Posts: 13

    Couple of things before we run to get our crying towels as the writer would have us do.


    According to an analysis by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, the do-what-you-want pot is drained after five years. And over 10 years, both pots fall $1.4 billion short of paying for just inflation. Proposition 204 supporters seem divided over whether to accept or dispute the JLBC's interpretation. Check the JLBC for yourself.

    Take a look at the AZ State Auditor General's site. Even with the slight decrease in state spending, money to the classroom is at an al time low.

    And $$/student means nothing unless graduation rates are considered. Chicago, LA, Detroit, and DC have extremely high $$/student with much lower graduation rates.

    The writer is consistent--he always wants more $$ for the tax and spend crowd in education. At the same time, he never has asked for verification of performance by schools or teachers.


     

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