If recent school district bond and override elections had been a referendum on public education, as some have suggested, they all would have passed. A recent study shows more than three-fourths of Arizona parents give either an “A” or “B” to the school their oldest child attends.
But that’s not what voters in the Phoenix metro area were weighing in on when they cast their ballots. The election failures in Maricopa County and two Pinal County districts reflected voter frustration with the economy and shock at inflated home valuations on 2008 property tax bills.
Misinformation, promulgated for political reasons, linking higher property tax bills with school spending further hobbled override efforts.
Voters must understand this: Increased property tax collections resulting from increased home valuations do not translate into more money for schools. Increased collections simply mean a greater share of the maximum allowable budget set by the Legislature for each district will come from property taxes, and a lesser share will come from the state’s general fund.
We must now look ahead and find effective ways of educating voters on how schools are funded so they can see through misinformation and vote in ways that support their true values.
Panfilo H. Contreras, executive director
Arizona School Boards Association