As early voting begins today for the Nov. 3 general election, Arizonans with questions about education initiatives, school bond, override and capital override elections have several resources to help them make informed decisions.
“Education is not a partisan issue,” said Christine Thompson, president and CEO of Expect More Arizona. “From the top of the ballot to the bottom, there are issues and offices that significantly impact every level of education in Arizona.”
“Before voting, citizens can do a little research to gain a better understanding of what authority elected officials wield,” Thompson said. “Before filling out their ballot, voters can ask candidate questions and see who best aligns with their views and priorities on education issues. “
While each school district’s website, county recorder’s website, and local media provide the facts on how these elections benefit students and impact taxpayers, this week voters can also view two online events to help them make up their minds.
The first event is a panel discussion on Prop. 208, also known as the Invest in Ed Act, on Thursday, Oct. 8 from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. The Arizona Center for Civic Leadership is sponsoring this Morning Scoop: Prop. 208 with the Arizona Capitol Times, and you can register for the free, informative virtual event by clicking here. The panel discussion will include David Lujan representing Yes on Prop 208 and Jaime Molera representing No on Prop 208.
The Your Vote, Your Schools event on Saturday, Oct. 10 from 11 a.m. to noon will discuss school board elections, legislative races, education initiatives including Prop. 208, bonds & overrides, and more. You can register for the free, nonpartisan, informative virtual event by clicking here.
The panel will be moderated by ABC-15‘s Danielle Lerner and journalist Mary Rabago, and speakers include Ylenia Aguilar, Osborn School District Governing Board President; Paul Bentz with HighGround Public Affairs, Chris Kotterman, with Friends of ASBA, and Tia Tsosie-Begay, a master teacher in Tucson Unified School District. Click here to learn more about the event at https://www.yourvoteyourschools.org/. Your Vote, Your Schools is hosted by Expect More Arizona, Arizona Center for Economic Progress, All in Education, Friends of ASBA, Education Champions, UnidosUS and Save Our Schools Arizona Network.
“We know Arizona families already overwhelmingly support their public schools, so the more folks we can get voting their love of public education, the better off for our students and our state,” said Beth Lewis, director of Save Our Schools Arizona.
What is Prop. 208?
Prop. 208 is also known as the Invest in Education Act. If Prop. 208 is approved by voters, then individuals earning more than $250,000 a year and households earning more than $500,000 a year would pay a 3.5 percent surcharge on the taxable income they earn in excess of $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for households.
Based on Arizona Department of Revenue models, Prop. 208 would generate $940 million annually for teachers, counselors, therapists, support staff, vocational education and other critical services, said David Lujan, director of The Arizona Center for Economic Progress, who helped draft the initiative.
Click here to read the Invest in Education Act in its entirety as it was filed with the Arizona Secretary of State, on Jan. 13, 2020.
Infographic by Muska Olumi/AZEdNews
“Proposition 208 will meaningfully impact compensation for teachers and education support professionals throughout the state,” said Thompson with Expect More Arizona, noting that an excellent educator in every classroom is critical to student success. “Even with recent state investments, teacher compensation lags woefully behind other like professions and educator pay in neighboring states.”
“Paired with Arizona’s already robust accountability systems and the lowest administrative spending per pupil in the country, this investment will bolster recruitment and retention of highly qualified educators for every classroom and ensure students are surrounded by education professionals supporting their success,” Thompson said.
Opponents of Prop. 208 led by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry say it will harm businesses, according to an AZMirror article. But Lydia Chew, a fiscal analyst with the Joint Legislative and Budget Committee who wrote a report on Prop. 208’s economic impacts told Phoenix New Times that “It would only be on the income that is passed through to them as their personal income. It would only be on the profits. It wouldn’t be on any money that they’re using in their business.”
“There is a lot of confusion and misinformation spreading about Prop 208, or Invest in Ed, right now,” said Lewis with Save Our Schools Arizona. “Here’s what people need to know: First, all of the money goes to teaching and learning. This includes money for hiring new teachers and staff, and increasing teacher and staff salaries, as well as teacher training and recruitment, and career and technical education programs. All of these funds are voter protected and cannot be misspent by politicians or used on administration.”
“It’s also important to note that the vast majority – 99% – of Arizonans won’t pay a dime more than they do now,” Lewis said. “That’s because only individuals earning more than a quarter of a million alone or half a million as a married couple would pay any additional taxes – and even these folks would only pay a 3.5% surcharge over those amounts – that’s an extra $350 a year for people who make $260,000 a year! That’s less than a dollar a day!”
“Our economy relies on a strong school system,” Lewis said. “Our business leaders are begging for stronger, well-funded and well-resourced schools because business leaders need a strong workforce in order to grow and compete.”
Court ruling impacts Invest in Ed, Save Our Schools initiatives qualifying for ballot
New Invest in Ed initiative announced for 2020 ballot
What are school bond and override elections?
Statewide, Arizona school districts are asking voters in their communities to approve 11 bond, 27 maintenance and operations override, three capital/ district additional assistance override ballot measures in the Nov. 3 election to generate funding through local property taxes that schools can use for a set time and purpose. Also, Arizona voters will decide one property question and three school district unification questions.
Bonds provide a certain amount of money for set projects.
Overrides allow a school district to increase their maintenance and operations budget up to 15 percent.
Capital/district additional assistance overrides let a school district raise funds up to 10 percent of their revenue control limit.
“I love talking about bonds and overrides because this is one of those votes in local government where your choice has a direct effect on your community,” said Liz Salazar, policy advisor in Arizona for UnidosUS.
“The unfortunate truth in Arizona is that we have been underfunding schools for over a decade,” Salazar said. “This means that our local districts have to find a way to pay for essential services that our students need to thrive.”
“In the past, these monies were used for those nice to have items like a new gym, or an updated building. Now, schools are using bond and override money to make sure their schools function on a baseline level – like buying updated curriculum and keeping up with quickly changing technological needs,” Salazar said.
“I heard a teacher say last week, ‘If we didn’t have bond and override money, we would not have 1 to 1 computing and I have no idea how we would be functioning right now,’ “ Salazar said. “It makes you think about the districts whose bonds and overrides rarely or never pass. Are their students receiving the best education with the best resources possible?”
“Bonds and overrides are one of the many ways we have patchworked together a funding stream for our schools in Arizona,” Salazar said. “It’s high time we FULLY fund our schools rather than depend on our local voters to foot the bill where the state does not want to step in.”
“In a perfect world, our districts would not spend so much energy on making ends meet this way – they would have what they need to educate every child in Arizona, regardless of what school they attend,” Salazar said. “But for now, we have to step up and make sure our schools and our students have what they need to teach in the 21st century – and that means passing bonds and overrides.”
Infographic by Angelica Miranda/AZEdNews
Bonds and overrides provide local funding for schools and community colleges, and voters need to look into the specific uses for the proposed bond or override, said Thompson with Expect More Arizona.
“In the past, bonds and overrides were used to fund things over and above basic services provided by the state,” Thompson said. “For years, our schools and colleges have weathered significant state funding cuts. Meanwhile, Arizona’s teachers and students have been asked to meet higher expectations and do more with less.”
“Bonds and overrides often now function to support critical programs, services and needs of districts which are no longer funded by the state,” Thompson said.
School districts and community colleges look to impact student success as they ask their communities for more funding, Thompson said.
“For several years, local voters have been asked to pick up the difference for critical services that can no longer be supported with limited state dollars,” Thompson said. “These local increases go to support things like full day kindergarten, reduced class sizes, more computers for students, increases in compensation to recruit and retain educators and staff, and facilities upgrades for safety and security.”
For example, schools have seen success in full day kindergarten programs impacting student success and literacy in third grade, Thompson said.
Schools that already had one device for each student were able to deploy them and engage in virtual learning more easily, Thompson noted.
“Funds that have supported salaries and benefits have gone directly to keeping excellent educators in the classroom – and an excellent teacher is the best indicator of student success,” Thompson said.
Next week: Find out more about school board elections and the role school board members play