The state of Arizona has captured the attention of the country due to the passage of SB1070, a new law meant to curb illegal immigration. What the rest of the country may not know–particularly because they’ve got problems of their own–is public education in the state of Arizona has hit rock bottom.
According to the Arizona Education Association, in 2008 Arizona ranked 49/50 states in the amount spent per student. “Arizona would have to increase per pupil spending by 44 percent (or $2.7 billion) to move to an amount equal to the national average.” Depending on where you get your statistics, Arizona ranks 50th or even 51st–below Guam.
Forty-three percent of the state’s total annual budget is allocated toward education. Unfortunately, Arizona is dealing with a budget deficit of $3.5 billion for the 2010-11 fiscal year. Money is being moved around, assets are being sold, rest stops are being closed and terms like “rollover” are being thrown out there as methods to combat this shortfall. And because education has seemingly NEVER been a priority in this state, public schools are currently in crisis.
On the ballot tomorrow is Prop. 100. It proposes a temporary one percent sales tax increase (or one cent on the dollar) for the next three years. If Arizona voters pass this proposition, it will decrease the budget shortfall by $1 billion, and two-thirds of the sales tax revenue is slated to go toward K-12 public education. The remaining one-third will go toward health and human services and public safety.
Last week I stood on a street corner in Tucson along with a group of mothers, teachers and students and carried my sign in support of Prop. 100. Two weeks ago I sent in my early ballot and voted YES.
Districts are doing what they can to cut back where they can, eliminating administrative positions and slashing budgets for sports, arts, and extra-curricular activities. Pre-Prop 100 cuts are already in place. And even if it passes, cuts will still be made. Just to cite one example, in the Tucson Unified School District, all sports must now pay for themselves–including coaching, transportation, uniforms, security, etc.
I have kids in Arizona public schools and I have to do everything I can to help support their educational experience. But I have to wonder, why doesn’t everyone else want that for all our children . . . and grandchildren?
Please VOTE YES on PROP. 100. Our kids need your vote.