When it comes to doing something to boost our state out of the cellar of student achievement and funding, the Republican-led Arizona Legislature takes a pass. Worse yet, lawmakers cut the budget, diverting money from a 1-cent sales tax that voters approved to protect public education.
So it's no wonder thatf parents, business leaders and community organizations came together, created and are supporting Prop. 204, dubbed "Quality Education & Jobs." It continues the 1-cent sales tax, sets education funding at 2011-12 levels and directs 80 percent of the total revenue to education.
We endorse Prop. 204. It is not perfect, but it creates a base level of funding for public education at all levels. It's unfortunate that it is necessary - but we are convinced that it is an investment required for a more productive and prosperous Arizona today and tomorrow.
Prop. 204 also protects the money so lawmakers can't spend it on something else, as they did with the 1-cent education sales tax passed in 2010. The language lays out a spending plan that includes K-12, community colleges, universities.
It also has money directed to transportation projects and Kids Care - health care for kids whose families make too much money to qualify for the state's Medicaid program, known as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, or AHCCCS. This is in response to the sorry condition of Arizona road infrastructure, and the Legislature's recent cuts to the Kids Care program.
Another portion of Prop. 204's spending plan is for a "Family Stability Fund" designed to support services that assist children dealing with problems that affect their readiness to learn, such as homelessness, an unsafe home environment and hunger.
We do have qualms about facets of Prop. 204. It doesn't sunset and the spending plan locks in priorities, although it leaves flexibility within the umbrella goals. We don't like sales taxes, as a general rule, because they are inherently regressive. They weigh most heavily on the people who can least afford it. But majority Republican lawmakers' continued neglect of public education weights heavily on the state.
Given that the chance of a wholesale change in the Legislature's members or political philosophy is unlikely, Prop. 204 is the best option available.
Prop. 204 gives Arizonans the opportunity to do what lawmakers have not - support our economy in the short and long term by putting our money into public education, transportation and programs that support kids and families.
Arizona Daily Star