The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer:
The state Legislature has been shortchanging Arizona’s schools and kids for years, dropping our state to 50th in education spending per student. Arizona has one of the highest teacher-student ratios in the country and teacher salaries are among the nation’s lowest, which explains why Arizona is in its sixth consecutive year of a teacher shortage crisis.
Proposition 208 restores hundreds of millions of dollars in education funding to solve the teacher-shortage crisis, cut class sizes, hire aides and counselors, and expand career and technical education. By law, half of all revenue generated by Prop. 208 will be spent to hire and increase salaries for teachers and classroom support personnel such as nurses and counselors. Twenty-five percent will be used to hire and raise salaries for student support services personnel, such as classroom aides, safety, and transportation. The balance is allocated to scholarships, vocational training and mentoring and retention programs for teachers.
The measure assesses a 3% income-tax surcharge on the highest 1% of taxpayers. Those with taxable income greater than $250,000 (or $500,000 for those who file jointly) will pay the surcharge on taxable income above $250,000/$500,000. An individual who has a taxable income of $251,000 will pay an extra $30 in income tax (3% of $1,000). Ninety-nine percent of Arizona taxpayers won’t pay a cent more.
Tax law professor Erin Adelle Scharff of ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor School of L aw concludes: “Proposition 208 asks those who have benefited most from the economy to pay their share to ensure future prosperity.”
Don’t fall for the argument that Arizonans are overtaxed. According to Dan Hunting of Arizona Policy Analysis, when the combined income, sales, property and automobile tax burden for residents of the largest cities in each state of the country are compared, Phoenix ranks 37th of the 51 jurisdictions studied. Comparing only income taxes, Phoenix is 41st.
Administrative costs for Arizona schools are the lowest in the nation, Hunting found. He also offers persuasive evidence that increases in education spending correlate with increases in total personal income in those states that invest in education. Every dollar invested in public education produces $1.80 in economic benefits including gains in productivity, earnings and standard of living, according to Phoenix Economics.
Business leaders agree that the top two challenges facing Arizona are the quality and availability of a skilled workforce and funding for public education. Proposition 208 will help small businesses grow and create jobs. If Arizona wants to be a prosperous state, we need to spend money like prosperous states do — on education. We all win when schools have resources they need to close the achievement gap and train a skilled workforce prepared for the challenges of today’s economy.
Leila Counts is a TUSD School Board member, parent and local small business owner.
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