During the Red for Ed movement of 2018, many of us joined the thousands of teachers marching on the Capitol for a substantial increase to teacher pay. We believe that protest played a definitive role in convincing the Legislature and governor to adopt a spending plan that included a phased-in average 20% teacher pay raise. That raise was fully implemented by the start of the current school year.
The pay increase was made possible because of a thriving economy that made such a significant investment possible.
Many Arizona teachers believe more must be done. Proposition 208 isn’t the answer, however. Contrary to the claims of the proponents, the initiative is likely to make future funding increases more difficult.
That’s because Proposition 208 raises state income taxes by 77.7% on certain earners, including small businesses.
An expanding small business sector has proven essential to the health of the Arizona economy. In fact, small businesses employ 58% of Arizonans in the private sector. When small businesses do well, education funding does better.
Dramatically increasing these small businesses’ income taxes when they’re already struggling during the pandemic won’t deliver the revenues necessary for future education funding increases.
This segment of tax revenues is highly volatile. During the recession, revenues from these taxpayers plunged more than 30%. Our district school boards won’t be able to base budgets and our teacher contracts on a source of funds that is so unpredictable. We deserve a reliable salary, not occasional bonuses.
The initiative also relies on language so broad and so full of loopholes that it offers no guarantees for increased pay for classroom teachers. We value deeply the contributions of every person who works on a school campus, but the Proposition 208 campaign’s claims that the measure is designed to increase pay for the individuals at the front of the classroom is misleading.
What’s especially troubling is that Proposition 208 provides no safeguard to prevent administrators from using this new tax to pay for current teacher pay, only to redirect the dollars presently devoted to teacher pay to some other purpose not related to student instruction.
In fact, the entire proposition gives students short shrift. We believe that teachers are indispensable participants in kids’ lives. We’ve made it our life’s work to deliver a world-class education to all students to shape today’s young people into tomorrow’s leaders.
But Proposition 208 says nothing about students. Nothing about academic achievement or educational outcomes. There’s not a word about core competencies like reading or math attainment, nothing about college readiness. It’s as if the authors of Proposition 208 forgot to include the education portion of their campaign slogan in their initiative.
We know that taxpaying small businesses are responsible for much of the tax dollars that shape state education budgets. Teachers and small businesses must work together to find sustainable funding sources for our classroom teachers and, more importantly, for our students. Passing the largest permanent tax increase in Arizona history on the backs of small businesses during such a vulnerable time is not the right approach.
We shouldn’t have to choose between a strong economy and better education funding. But without a strong economy, we’ll never achieve better education funding.
We urge you to join us in voting NO on Proposition208.
Araceli Flores (former teacher)
Brenda Garcia (former educator)
Jacqueline Gutierrez (former teacher)
Tracie Happel (former teacher)
Katherine Visser (former teacher)