The following is the opinion and analysis of the Arizona Daily Star’s Editorial Board.
As you think about Prop. 208, known as “Invest in Ed,” ask yourself these financial questions:
Would you become a public school teacher in Arizona today? Would you pursue a career in education, taking on debt for a university degree and state certification, knowing that Arizona public school teachers are paid 31.8% less than their comparable college-educated peers?
Is an Arizona child worth less than a child living in another state? Is your child’s education worth less?
Of course not, we say. But basic economics tells us that what we pay for, we value — and what we value, we’re willing to pay for.
Prop. 208 answers both ends of the equation, increasing the pay for teachers and other classroom-connected educators while limiting the financial cost to those who make $250,000 in taxable income for individual, or $500,000 per couple.
The Arizona Daily Star’s Editorial Board endorses Prop. 208.
Prop. 208 would create a 3.5% income tax surcharge on those Arizona taxpayers — note that benchmark is for taxable income, what’s left after tax deductions have been taken. About 90,000 Arizonans make enough to qualify for the surcharge.
And then, Arizonans making between $250,000 to $499,999 in taxable income would pay an average of $120 more per year. Opponents of Prop. 208 contend the surcharge will push the wealthy out of Arizona, a dubious argument when most of the people affected would pay a mere $10 more per month.
Those making from $1 million to $5 million in taxable income would pay an average $40,287 more per year — which, coincidentally, is almost the same figure as the beginning teacher salary in the Tucson Unified School District.
Research shows, and we can recall from our own school experience or our child’s experience, that having an excellent teacher makes a tremendous difference — and that excellence has monetary value. And the potential that some of the teachers who would receive a pay raise are ineffective or bad at their jobs doesn’t overcome the upside of passing Prop. 208.
What’s more, Prop. 208 would help solve Arizona’s chronic teacher shortage. Hundreds of classrooms are headed up by people without a teaching certificate as schools scramble to find qualified teachers to hire. It makes sense to do what we can to make teaching a more attractive and sustainable profession.
The Joint Legislative Budget Committee predicts Prop. 208 could generate $827 million to be used in the following ways:
- 50% for hiring and raises for teachers and classroom support personnel.
25% for hiring and raises for student support services personnel.
- 10% for new teacher retention programs.
- 12% to the Career Training and Workforce Fund, also newly-established by the proposition.
- 3% to expand the Arizona Teacher’s Academy, which provides tuition and fee waivers for higher education students who commit to teaching in Arizona public schools after graduation.
We can’t keep expecting teachers and other educators, like school counselors, librarians and aides, to take a financial hit to teach our children.
When you are filling out your ballot, take a few moments to remember a favorite teacher and the impact that person had in your life. And then vote ‘Yes’ on Prop. 208.