On July 2, the Invest in Education coalition delivered 435,669 signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office, far more than the 237,645 valid signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.
Despite the pandemic, committed Arizonans of every age, political party, and background and from every corner of the state found safe ways to sign petitions and support the petition drive. (We had hoped that the Arizona Supreme Court would allow online signature gathering for initiatives, but they denied our request and have not issued an opinion explaining why yet.)
To the many Arizona citizens who readily stepped up to enable voters to do what our state’s political leaders have failed to do, we thank you.
But there’s an even more heartfelt thank you to say.
As one of hundreds of thousands of Arizona parents who dealt with “involuntary homeschooling” last spring, I know I’m not alone in my deep gratitude for teachers. It’s never been clearer how important teachers and school staff are.
Invest in Ed will raise almost $1 billion for teacher and support staff pay, teacher mentoring and retention programs, scholarships for aspiring teachers, and career and vocational training for students.
To do this, the ballot initiative levies a 3.5% income tax surcharge for Arizona’s wealthiest 1% of taxpayers. It only impacts individual net taxable income (that’s after credits and deductions) in excess of $250,000 or married couples’ net taxable income in excess of $500,000. In simple dollars, a couple with $501,000 in net taxable income would pay $35 additional per year.
The Invest in Ed initiative’s ultra-rich, dark money opponents falsely claim it would hurt small business owners. This is simply untrue. As already noted, the Invest in Ed Act levies a surcharge on only the taxable household income above a very high threshold – $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for married couples. Only the richest 1% of Arizona tax filers would pay, and almost none of them run the small businesses that are the backbone of Arizona’s economy, unless you’re talking about “small businesses” like investment advisers, high-priced law firms, and plastic surgeons.
Please remember and keep reminding yourself of this simple fact as you consider where you stand on Invest in Ed: 99% of Arizonans will not see a tax increase as a result of the Invest in Education Act, and 100% of Arizona’s 59,261 public school teachers and 1.1 million public school students (district and charter) will benefit.
What about the wealthiest 1% of Arizonans who would pay more so that our state can finally address its teacher shortage crisis and better prepare our future workforce? Well, just a few years ago, they got a federal tax break that averages $47,000 per year.
Now contrast that with $30,853 – the average increase the wealthiest 1% of Arizonans would pay as a result of the Invest in Education initiative.
Then consider the fact that 1,800 Arizona classrooms didn’t have a certified teacher last year and that Arizona’s level of inflation-adjusted school funding in 2020 is still below where it was in 2008.
Finally, consider that Arizona has one of the most regressive, unfair tax systems in the nation. In Arizona, the wealthy pay a far lower percentage of their income in state taxes than people with moderate or low incomes.
No wonder then that civic-minded business leaders like Ron Butler, managing partner of major accounting firm Ernst & Young’s Phoenix office, are ready to step up. Butler recently said this on a Facebook Live town hall sponsored by Save our Schools AZ: “If I’m going to make any investment, I’m going to invest in public schools. Go ahead and tax me.”
For more detailed data on the impact of Invest in Ed, please visit https://investined.com/investinaz
-Rebecca Gau is the executive director at Stand for Children Arizona.