Arizonans overwhelmingly support increased salaries to fix our teacher shortage crisis and keep great teachers in Arizona public schools. From teachers to parents and grandparents, to faith leaders, to community supporters, to mayors and business CEOs, calls for reinvestments in our public schools have been growing louder and stronger for several years. Now Gov. Doug Ducey has joined the ranks and brought to the capitol his campaign for a three-year phase-in of a 20 percent raise for teachers. Raises like this would give teachers more financial stability and bring relief to the growing teacher shortage in schools all across this state.
So why would the vast majority of teachers and other educators vote to walk out of school?
Teachers do their homework. They know that Gov. Ducey has put more fumes than fuel into his promise for teacher pay. He’s added $1.2 billion more to his spending promises over the next three years without raising taxes. With fingers crossed that the economy won’t slow down by 2021, he projects $845 million more in tax collections. But even if that holds true, he has to fill a budget gap of more than $350 million. So Gov. Ducey is proposing more budget gimmicks – like one-time sweeps of funds and adding a new lottery game. And he is telling the legislature they must wipe out every other budget priority for their constituents, like support for the arts, services for Arizonans with developmental disabilities, and basic funding for university students.
Why would parents and other hardworking Arizonans continue to cheer on Red for Ed even as teachers plan to walk out of school?
Because they can’t trust politicians who pronounce that they value public education while simultaneously voting for tax and budget policies that deplete the resources for public schools. The past four governors have signed 24 years of tax cuts that have made some corporate stockholders very happy, but have shrunk the resources for teachers, classrooms, and school buildings that the rest of us count on. Right after campaigning to be our education governor, Ducey proposed and signed a budget cut of $123 million to Arizona classrooms in his first year in office.
He says that he plans to sign more tax cuts before this legislative session is over.
Our painful history shows that without a dedicated revenue source for schools, politicians neglect education funding whenever the economy slows down. Over and over again, teachers and students have been left behind as our leaders ignored their own promises and slashed funding for inflation, full-day kindergarten, textbooks and supplies, school building repair, career and technical education. And teachers.
Today, Arizonans are excited to fuel higher pay for teachers and all the other educators who support our students. Instead of pretending we can move forward without new funding, our leaders should establish a dedicated and sustainable way to pay for what we value so highly. The solutions are in front of us. They include ending tax credits, moving tax dollars from private schools back to public education, reversing tax cuts for Arizonans who can afford to pay, and closing loopholes. It is time to create a real financial plan to reinvest in our children and our future.
Dana Wolfe Naimark is the president and CEO of Children’s Action Alliance