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Education top issue for Arizona voters, poll finds
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Education top issue for Arizona voters, poll finds

Twenty-six percent of likely Arizona voters said a general lack of funding for schools topped their list of education concerns.

Education is still the top issue for Arizona voters, according to a poll from Expect More Arizona.

Statewide, 28% of 600 likely voters surveyed said education was their top issue, followed by health care and the economy and jobs. Education has surfaced as the top issue for six consecutive years.

Digging further into what education issues are important to people, 26% said a general lack of funding for schools topped the list, and 17% said teacher pay and support for teachers was most important.

President-elect Joe Biden introduced Miguel Cardona as his pick for education secretary on Wednesday, saying Connecticut's education chief and life-long champion of public schools is the right pick to lead the department as the nation struggles to educate students safely during the pandemic.

Additionally, 16% of people said concerns around remote learning and a desire to get students back into classrooms were their top concern. Respondents agreed that the inequity and opportunity gaps outside of school often impacts student success in the classroom and that problem has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Voters recognize that a strong economic future isn’t possible without having difficult conversations about what it will take to close persistent opportunity gaps,” says Ron Butler, chair of the board of Expect More Arizona.

One of the most prevalent opportunity gaps is lack of access to internet or technology for online learning, along with food insecurity, housing insecurity and parental help with online learning at home.

While 66% of respondents said K-12 funding in the state is too low, only 29% of voters surveyed said schools would have enough funding as a result of Proposition 208, the Invest in Education Act passed by voters in November to raise close to $1 billion for education yearly from a surcharge on the state’s most wealthy residents.

Also significant, 79% of respondents said teachers salaries were too low.

The top education issues where respondents would like to see more investment is increasing teacher pay, funding to improve lower performing schools and funding for student support services, as well as supporting access to quality early learning opportunities.

Last year’s poll found that 42% of people said education was their top issue. That percentage likely dropped this year because health care has climbed in importance because of the widespread impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, says Christine M. Thompson, president and CEO of Expect More Arizona.

“But it’s telling that people with and without children at home are still likely to name education as the top issue facing the state,” Thompson says. “Voters in Arizona clearly understand the importance of education and the value schools add to our communities.”

“These poll results shouldn’t surprise anyone. Arizona voters recognize the daunting challenges facing our students and education systems — from quality early learning through higher education. While voters agree that parent, family and community engagement in schools is essential to the success of our students, they are also sending a clear message that meaningful investments are just as critical,” she said.

Contact reporter Danyelle Khmara at dkhmara@tucson.com or 573-4223. On Twitter: @DanyelleKhmara


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