Opinion: Invest in Education gives voters a chance to help public schools, creating a funding source that Arizona lawmakers can’t cut.
The deepest budget cuts in the nation have left so many students without permanent teachers or the basic funding they need for their classrooms.
I know because my wife and I are public school educators, and we have our two children in public schools. As a high school economics and government teacher in Mesa, I am thrilled for the incredible support across Arizona to place this initiative on the November ballot.
But our fight is not over.
What #InvestinEd would do for schools
I’m chairing the Invest in Education campaign to give Arizona voters a chance to take funding decisions into our own hands and create a dedicated resource for public school students, educators and classrooms that the state Legislature can’t cut.
The Invest in Ed proposition will give students permanent teachers, more counselors, nurses, bus drivers and aides to keep them safe and learning, and modern classrooms, technology and textbooks.
The proposition creates a new revenue stream for public education by increasing an income tax on the wealthiest 1 percent of Arizonans, who pay a much lower share of their income for the public schools.
This new revenue, expected to generate $690 million annually, adds balance to our school funding system that is currently funded through sales, income, and property taxes paid by all Arizonans.
States with similar income tax structures as Invest in Ed have experienced strong growth in jobs and their economy. These new dedicated funds will go into the classroom site fund and cannot be taken away by politicians.
Arizona voters are ready for this
The 270,000 signatures collected in about 60 days to get this on the ballot is unprecedented and demonstrates that Arizona is ready for a plan to fund our schools. It shows that we as a state know that strong public schools are the backbone of our nation and our communities.
Our schools have the incredible responsibility of educating the next generation’s workforce, leaders and entrepreneurs, and helping children grow into adults with honesty and compassion.
We can’t do any of this without great teachers in the classroom. Yet, in the middle of this past school year, more than 2,000 teaching positions remained vacant in classrooms across our state.
We can change this.
Invest in Ed will create dedicated funding so no child in Arizona will have to go without a qualified classroom teacher. Schools will be able to lower class sizes so that students do not have to cram into overcrowded classrooms where they can’t get the attention they need to succeed.
And more resources will be available for full day kindergarten so more students can start off with the foundation for success throughout school and beyond.
This proposal resonates with voters across our state because smart investments in strong schools lead to student success, business growth and good jobs for Arizona.
Don’t let business leaders scare you
Business leaders agree that our public schools need more resources. Time and time again they have said that a well educated workforce is key to growing our economy. And they have had years to give Arizona a long-term plan we can count on.
But instead, they let the school crisis grow worse and worse. It’s a sad commentary that lobbyists like those who work for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and some politicians will try to scare us into voting against the resources our students need.
They will fight hard to keep the status quo. One where our students and our schools are put last over and over again. One where tax cuts are more important than students.
Because of the inaction of Arizona politicians, public schools are still $800 million below 2008 funding levels. Our children can’t wait another decade for the teachers and classrooms they need for their education and their future careers.
Together we can step in where the politicians have failed. We can vote for stronger educational opportunities for all of our children.
Joshua Buckley, a government and economics at Red Mountain High School in Mesa, chairs the Invest in Education campaign committee. Follow him on Twitter @JoshRBuckley.