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Lawmakers give thanks for passage of sale tax extension, call for ‘new’ Prop 301

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As the sponsors of the Prop 301 continuation, we are thrilled by the overwhelming support our bill received. Thanks to many are in order.  First, thank you to our colleagues for the bipartisan support leading to a supermajority passage.  Thank you to Governor Ducey who noted our grassroots effort, listened to what was being said, and worked with leadership and legislators for its ultimate passage. Thank you to the education and business communities, who supported the continuation.  Without all these parties, our legislation would not have passed.  The importance of this legislation and its resounding message of affirmation to our students, parents and teachers cannot be overstated.  This IS a big deal and a great day for public education in Arizona.

Sen. Kate Brophy McGee (R-Phoenix)

Sen. Kate Brophy McGee (R-Phoenix)

Rep. Doug Coleman, R-Apache Junction

Rep. Doug Coleman, R-Apache Junction

Second, a thank you to our teachers and support staff, who dedicate their time and talents every day to educating our students. There have been many years of challenges and insufficient resources, but the legislative extension of Prop 301 provides the stability critical for our districts and schools to plan on a longer-term basis, even as the important conversations to build the new Prop 301 get underway. Teacher pay will immediately be improved at those school districts where Prop 301 dollars were being phased out.  Further, our legislation updated Prop 301 to direct over $64 Million dollars to teacher compensation after school construction bonds are paid off in 2021. This change is an important recognition of where we go from here: investment in our teachers and our classrooms.

Third, a thank you to all Arizonans. The legislative process is far from perfect and it’s messy. Thank you for your patience, attention and feedback.  With the Prop 301 continuation on the books, we can alleviate the “fiscal cliff” pressure on Prop 301 recipients, who count on its over $640 million annually to sustain operations, including more than 10% of our teachers’ paychecks.

So, what’s next?

The immediate next step is the 2019 budget, just weeks away. The continued recovery of Arizona’s economy from the depths of the great recession is generating additional revenues.  We will continue to advocate for new dollars to be invested in K-12 in 2019, just as we have successfully advocated for and achieved in prior budgets.

The Prop 301 extension marks the beginning of a much bigger conversation. Education has changed a lot in 20 years.  We need every education stakeholder at the table as we begin the work to build the Prop 301 of the 21st Century. We must address the rigid and complex funding formula and continue to identify sustainable long-term funding sources for education, like Prop 301 and Prop 123.

Our goal is to ensure Arizona’s vibrant school choices are funded equally and our teachers adequately compensated.  We call for the formation of a Prop 301 task force to design and build the new Prop 301. We can’t get this done without all parties at the table. The Prop 301 extension starts that conversation.  We hope you will join us.

Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, and Rep. Doug Coleman, R-Apache Junction, are vice chairs of the respective chambers’ Education Committees and sponsors of legislation that extends Proposition 301.

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The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.

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