As former Superintendents of Public Instruction and lifelong education advocates, we’ve spent our careers speaking out on important issues impacting our children’s education. That means promoting good policy that aligns with our shared goal of academic excellence, and opposing bad policy that undermines our efforts and endangers our kids.
In a few weeks, Arizonans will be asked to consider Proposition 205 – the ballot initiative that would legalize recreational marijuana in Arizona.
All educators should be concerned about this campaign, and quite frankly, offended by its tactics. Concerned about the obvious ills of a proposition that would expose kids to drug use on a massive scale; offended that you, as educators, are being used as pawns to sell this bad policy to the electorate; and offended that our children are being falsely portrayed as beneficiaries of this effort, when experience tells us they will suffer.
Just look at what’s happening in Colorado:
Drug use among kids is now 74 percent higher than the national average, and Colorado ranks 1st in the nation for youth drug use. Drug-related suspensions and expulsions are at a 10-year high, with over 60 percent involving marijuana violations. Marijuana-related traffic deaths have risen 62 percent, while emergency room visits have increased 49 percent.
The pro-pot campaign aims to distract Arizona’s voters from these facts by making them buy into an oft-used tactic: It’s for the children.
But it’s not.
They would like you to believe that a vote for marijuana is a vote for more money in public education.
But it’s not.
Just ask Colorado, where many of the state’s largest school districts still haven’t seen a penny of the taxes collected on marijuana sales. Statewide, tax revenues for education are crawling in at a fraction of what taxpayers were promised.
In recent weeks, educators and elected officials in Colorado have come out in full force with a loud message for Arizona: Don’t believe the lie.
Last month, Superintendent Harry C. Bull, Jr. of Colorado’s Cherry Creek School District said it best: “So far, the only thing that the legalization of marijuana has brought to our schools has been marijuana.”
There is a lesson to be learned here: Drug money is not the answer to funding our schools.
In Arizona, we are focused on sound, stable and long-term solutions to education funding. This past May, Arizonans voted to approve a historic $3.5 billion in guaranteed dollars to K-12 schools for the next 10 years.
It’s only a first step, but it’s a bold step. The passage of Prop 123 sent a loud signal that Arizonans can come together in a spirit of innovation and bipartisanship to properly invest in education while supporting and nurturing our children.
We need more of the clear thinking that brought us 123 – because 205 is all smoke and mirrors.
Over the coming months and years, Arizonans should work together to promote stronger schools and better outcomes for our kids. Let’s start by voting “NO” on Proposition 205 this November.
Lisa Graham Keegan and Jaime A. Molera are former state Superintendents of Public Instruction for the State of Arizona.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.