Education has always been a major part of my life. My father, Dr. George N. Smith, was a highly respected teacher and school superintendent here in Arizona for over 35 years. As the superintendent of one of the largest school districts, my father lived education – at the dinner table, at church, even at the grocery store. During his tenure, Mesa’s schools were considered to be among the finest in the nation.
I grew up knowing that quality education was the key to success. That’s why, even as a struggling family, my wife and I made sacrifices so that I could go to law school. That’s also why education has been a key part of my HEAT (Healthcare, Education, Aerospace, Tourism/Technology) initiative in Mesa.
So far, we have had a great deal of success with this initiative. We’ve increased opportunities in higher education by bringing five new colleges to our downtown. We’ve built stronger relationships with ASU Polytechnic, MCC, AT Still and others. We’ve teamed up with Mesa Public Schools to develop a plan to turn underused space into youth sports facilities with the passage of Mesa’s Question 1. I am also pleased to be part of the Mayor’s Roundtable on Education.
I wholeheartedly believe that educating our children is the most important investment we can make in Arizona, and we should expect nothing short of excellence in our educational system. I have seen firsthand how critical quality education is to creating economic opportunities. I have long supported efforts to provide adequate funding for our schools and colleges, expand parental choice, encourage innovation, improve teacher training, and demand accountability.
During this recession, many Arizonans have expressed their displeasure with the manner in which state leaders have handled educational funding priorities. Prop. 204 is a product built from this frustration. Unfortunately, it is a flawed product; and, is bad public policy.
Prop. 204 imposes a permanent fix for what is most likely a short-term problem. All too often, these inflexible changes become outdated as the world changes. Rather than curing the actual ailment, these solutions end up merely easing the pain for a short time. They then often prohibit substantive reforms that would have a more lasting impact. Prop. 204 may even reward the status quo, which will also inhibit real changes in school financing or performance. This will not inspire the kind of transformational reforms that our children need and deserve.
In its attempt to solve one problem, Prop. 204 will also simply shift financial challenges from one area of government to another. The changes in Prop. 204 will make it more difficult, if not impossible, to achieve much needed overall state tax reform.
Arizonans should demand real solutions from our leaders to the challenges we face. Prop. 204 not only fails to solve these challenges, it will keep us from making the changes we need to improve our educational system. Please join me in voting no on Prop. 204. Let’s then work together to make Arizona’s schools the best in America!
–Scott Smith, a Republican, is the mayor of Mesa.