The real story about the passage of Prop 301 extension

Did you see the headline of today’s Arizona Republic?

If you’re an Arizonan who still subscribes to the print version of the state’s newspaper of record, you walked out to your driveway Friday morning to find a headline asking whether Gov. Doug Ducey, by signing legislation to extend a critical funding stream for public education, is somehow violating his pledge not to raise taxes.

The headline and accompanying article appeared the morning after the state Legislature, in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion, passed the bill to extend Proposition 301’s .6 percent sales tax for an additional 20 years.

This is big, good news. And it’s one part of a larger story that, because of Gov. Doug Ducey’s leadership, there has been a consistent focus on additional resources for K-12 education, the implementation of reforms that drive better results, and the end of legal squabbling that was destabilizing education funding.

The 1,000-plus-word analysis contained the contemplations of out-of-state groups quibbling over whether the Legislature sent a tax extension or tax increase to the governor’s desk, and reported that, “all eyes are watching how Ducey will explain his apparently looming signature on it.”

They are? The state’s newspaper is missing why this is such a big moment.

This, and other recent articles, missed critical points. Namely, that both parties in the Legislature chose to govern and pursue sound policy that is in the best interest of Arizona’s students, teachers, and schools.

This shouldn’t be ignored. Good policy won out over politics, and in an election year, no less. Kudos to the legislative leaders who got the bill passed. While some agitators would have preferred to have played politics with something so consequential, legislators instead did the right thing.

And despite what the usual Eeyores might say, this is not a maintenance of the status quo. Over $64 million is being shifted from debt payments into teachers’ paychecks.

The move also provides an additional 20 years of stability for education funding for K-12, universities, and community colleges. These funds are critically important for budgeting purposes. Stories of schools squirrelling away funds out of worry that Proposition 301 would not be extended were beginning to pop up. Such withholdings would have damaging impacts on teacher salaries. Gov. Ducey and the Legislature recognized this, and they acted.

Some politicians and activists, who are always able to spot the cloud and never the silver lining, are grousing that what Democrats and Republicans have accomplished is not enough.

And guess what? I agree.

Our teachers deserve better pay. Our schools deserve more resources. But what happened Thursday was not the final act. It was one of many needed moments of leadership to get to a solid foundation. Each one has value, and each one must be recognized, even while the necessary work continues.

The most important decisions before us require a commitment to the reforms that put Arizona on the national education map and have given so many students a school that fits their needs, talents, and interests.

We must continue and accelerate these types of policies that reward performance and accelerate choice. Arizona’s schools are making faster academic gains than any other state and our overall rankings are competitive across a diverse set of measures.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry will continue to work with lawmakers of both parties and Gov. Ducey to craft policies that combine resources with reforms in order to drive results. It is much easier when all the major parties – education groups, business organizations, and elected officials – are working together.

The extension of Proposition 301 was such a critical step in a multi-step process that to dismiss it misses a major story.

Glenn Hamer

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