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Local Opinion: Our opportunity to repair K-12 education
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Local Opinion: Our opportunity to repair K-12 education

It all comes down to funding

  • Updated

Dear Arizona Voters,

If you have a K-12 child or grandchild, you are aware of the impact high needs and low funding have on district public schools. You know that Arizona’s current state and local tax rates mean your K-12 student is being underserved.

  • Your child may be assigned to one of more than 1,800 classrooms statewide without certified teachers.
  • Your student may be assigned to a class with too many students for their teacher to meet your student’s needs.
  • Your child might attend in-person classes in a school without a full-time nurse (during a pandemic).
  • Your Arizona student is more likely than youth in other states to attend a school without a certified school librarian who teaches print and digital literacy and online safety.
  • Your student’s school likely lacks a sufficient number of counselors to help students with social-emotional needs or guide them to post-secondary success with college and career opportunities.

If you don’t currently have a K-12 student in your life, you have relatives, friends, neighbors and fellow Arizonans who do. The future of our community, including the business community, depends on the quality of education available to young people today.

More money does matter; it equals better academic outcomes for students. Funds from Proposition 208, the Invest in Education Act, will allow Arizona school districts to train, hire and retain qualified classroom teachers, nurses, school librarians and counselors and reduce class size.

For these reasons, the Arizona Library Association is asking voters who care about K-12 students and educators, literacy and libraries and Arizona’s economic future to vote yes of Proposition 208. AzLA agrees with other K-12 education stakeholders regarding the critical need to fix our broken education funding system.

We also believe that Arizona’s students and classroom teachers benefit from the expertise of professional school librarians. Whether remote or in person, school librarians offer technology support to individual students, classroom teachers and administrators. They teach research skills in virtual as well as face-to-face classrooms. School librarians make sure students have access to curbside pickup for books and technology devices. They facilitate online book group discussions using print and ebooks and keep students reading during times when youth may be less inclined to build their reading skills.

In order to be successful, today’s students must have a high level of traditional print and digital literacy and technological and information literacy. School librarians are key educators who teach and guide students in practicing and mastering these literacies. Research shows that students who have access to fully staffed, fully resourced school library programs have improved learning outcomes.

Arizona’s district public schools have an equity problem. Many students and educators are learning and teaching without the support of a state-certified school librarian in their school. This lack of access to the knowledge and skills of library literacy leaders is an equity issue.

Money is at the root of an inequitable education system. The Invest in Education Act calls for a 3.5% surtax added to the state tax bills of Arizona’s wealthiest taxpayers. The surtax is only added to income over $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for joint filers. It affects only 4% of Arizona taxpayers and is expected to reap $940 million annually.

All Arizona children deserve a high-quality education. The Legislature and the Arizona business community do not have a plan for fixing what’s broken. We, the voters, have the opportunity to begin to fix what the legislature has broken. It’s up to us to begin to repair public education with long overdue funds.

Please join the literacy and library community and vote yes on Proposition 208.

Judi Moreillon, Ph.D., is co-chair of the Teacher Librarian Division of the Arizona Library Association. She is a retired classroom teacher, literacy coach, school librarian and classroom teacher and school librarian educator.

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