Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry Goddard is calling for the suspension of tax credits for private schools and the return of state funding for all-day kindergarten as part of an education plan released Thursday.
Goddard, the current attorney general, also called for more local control of education, saying state lawmakers spend too much time micromanaging classroom teachers.
He faces incumbent Jan Brewer, the likely Republican nominee who was once considered highly vulnerable but whose popularity has soared after she signed an immigration enforcement bill in April.
Goddard said he wants to reverse the Republican-controlled Legislature’s decision this year to cut $218 million in funding for all-day kindergarten — a move intended to help cover a budget deficit. He said every school in the state should offer full-day instruction for those students.
Goddard also said the money spent on tax credits for students in private and parochial schools should be directed to public schools, at least while the state struggles with big budget deficits. Taxpayers diverted more than $58 million from their 2009 state income taxes to pay for private school scholarships.
“We need to put our first dollars into our public school system, and this is not a time to subsidize private schools,” Goddard said.
Supporters of the tax-credit program say it opens up private schools to students who couldn’t otherwise afford them.
Goddard also proposed new taxes on transactions that are currently exempt from them, such as country-club memberships and some repair services.
He said finding more money for education is particularly vital as Arizona struggles economically.
“Unless we commit to public education and to raising the bar for our public schools, Arizona will never recover economically,” he said.
Brewer has touted her proposal for a temporary state sales tax increase to offset cuts to education. Voters approved the increase, known as Proposition 100, in May.
“Gov. Brewer put her political career on the line when she proposed Prop 100 and campaigned actively for it, and two-thirds of Arizona voters agreed with her,” Brewer campaign spokesman Doug Cole said.
Brewer supports the private school tax credits and other policies that give parents an alternative to their local public school, Cole said.