Originally Published: April 4, 2018 6:05 a.m.
What are you willing to give up to pay to retain good teachers for our children? (Select all that apply.)
- I would be willing to pay a higher sales tax. 15%
- I will pay more in property taxes. 15%
- I want to see schools cut extracurricular activities, such as drama, music and sports. 3%
- I would rather see another bond/override election that will sunset eventually. 3%
- I want to see the state shift funding from other departments into education. 22%
- I would rather see schools continue to receive tax credits. 8%
- My kids are grown; I don't want to give up anything (not my responsibility). 7%
- I want to donate how much I want to, and not be told or forced. 5%
- Cut field trips or something else that does not affect in-class learning or extracurricular activities. 5%
- Charge businesses or developers an impact fee for education. 16%
2506 total votes.
The state of education funding in Arizona is dire.
Politicians in the Phoenix area are proud of the 9 percent they have promised over the past two years for public education funding; however, that is a fraction of what schools have seen in state-funding cuts since 2008, mostly because of lawmakers working to balance the budget annually through the Great Recession.
Figuratively, despite the state’s 2018-19 infusion of funding, public school finances remain down – by millions of dollars – compared to what they were prior to the Recession.
Call it the Arizona education debt.
Further, while that 9 percent that has been reported and bragged about in campaign ads, local teachers have not seen the increase in their salaries.
Politicians falsely claim that school administrators are the reason the money is not getting to teachers. School districts, such as Prescott Unified School District, must maintain a balance between class sizes, teachers, and programs (everything they do). If the district puts too much into one area, the balance is off; place all of the money into teachers’ salaries, and programs or class sizes suffer.
The needs are widespread. The one that has been making the most headlines lately is teachers’ salaries. The sad truth is teachers often leave the Prescott area and go to higher-paying communities, like Phoenix, because the annual pay is thousands of dollars more there.
That was illustrated in the news this week in Oklahoma, where even after an annual $6,100 pay hike was approved, teachers went on strike. They did that because by crossing the border into nearby states, such as Texas, they can make more. Much more, even after their recent increase in teacher pay. For instance, the 2016 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year said he cannot afford to stay in Oklahoma. He left for North Texas, where his pay is $40,000 more a year.
You may have seen this week in The Daily Courier and Prescott Valley Tribune news of the Humboldt Education Foundation’s teachers of the year for the Humboldt Unified School District. Also there have been announcements of outstanding principals in Prescott Unified School District. Are any of them leaving? That remains to be seen. But some of the Yavapai County Education Foundation’s winners in its annual countywide Teacher of the Year program have departed in recent years for better-paying jobs elsewhere, locally or out of the area.
Losing teachers, especially the best of them, hurts schools as well; turnover is expensive and disrupts the learning environment.
Solutions could include a serious pay hike. Recently, teachers in the Phoenix area called for a 20-percent raise, something that Gov. Doug Ducey practically scoffed at. That 20 percent, by the way, would have raised teacher pay in Arizona only to the national median. The cost to Arizona from such a raise would equate to $660 million to $1 billion, depending on who you talk to.
Knowing how school funding and state budgets have worked in Arizona for ages, that $1 billion will likely be borne by the public – the taxpayer – rather than promises of better days ahead.
When PUSD sought a bond recently, the argument was the cost of a cup of coffee to pay for the bonds. They were successful on their second try.
So what are you willing to give up to pay to retain good teachers for our children or properly pay for school capital needs, funding of which is down 87.7 percent for the coming year?
In the future, you could be asked to pay a higher sales tax, for example, forcing you to cut out that monthly trip to the movies … or two of your 10 trips to the coffee shop … or decreasing your savings or other spending. Other choices could ask us to give up options for our children, such as drama, music, tennis or other programs – activities and experiences that, when we have them, are proven to keep kids in school and reduce dropout rates.
Many districts in the state have already cut these programs, and Arizona currently has one of the highest high school dropout rates in the nation.
How would you pay for the charge, tax or fee that you and everyone else may incur? What choices would you make?