Arizona Federation of Teachers (AFT) has joined more than 80 local organizations in opposition to Proposition 127, the renewable energy mandate led by California billionaire Tom Steyer. Due to concerns about increased costs on schools and families, AFT made its opposition public this week as early voting soon approaches.
“Prop 127 is a threat to Arizona teachers, who will face significantly higher utility bills if this initiative becomes law,” the AFT statement read. “Whatever recent gains Arizona teachers have made in terms of improved pay will be largely wiped out by Prop 127. It will add an estimated $1,000 per year to the electricity costs paid by teachers and Arizona families.”
The coalition against Prop 127 warns that added utility expenses may especially hurt those least able to pay, including seniors, low-income families and small-business owners. This is due to the expenses associated with meeting the 50 percent renewables mandate.
AFT also emphasized the direct cost to K-12 schools, “Prop 127 both reduces property tax revenues – a critical funding stream for public education – while significantly increasing school costs for heating and cooling. Prop 127 is expected to cost Arizona K-12 schools more than $300 million in added expenses for overhead between now and 2030. We believe this money would be better spent in the classroom to improve teacher pay, reduce class sizes and give our teachers the tools they need to help students succeed.”
The estimates from the local utilities between now and 2030 reveal nearly $700 million in additional expenses for public K-12 schools, community colleges and public universities combined.
The Arizona Federation of Teachers is a state affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.
The American Federation of Teachers has more than 1.3 million members nationwide and is an affiliated international union of the AFL-CIO.
Interestingly, the Arizona Education Association (AEA) has taken a different position. The group recently announced their support of Proposition 127, citing the need for clean air for students. The AEA did not acknowledge the estimated costs on public school districts, although the organization has been advocating for additional dollars for K-12. The AEA led the failed attempt to increase individual income taxes on small businesses and families through a poorly drafted ballot initiative that was ultimately kicked off the ballot.
In a recent interview, world-renowned economist Stephen Moore noted there is no avoiding increased costs for public education if voters pass the energy mandate. “Now when it comes to your schools and universities, they’re a major user of electric power,” Moore said. “If you raise their prices, it’s going to mean high tuition costs and less money available to pay teachers more. So, there is real cost downstream from requiring your schools and universities to pay a higher electric power cost. I, myself, would rather have that money go to school teachers.”