by Katherine Davis-Young
Educators and community members who led the Red-for-Ed walkouts in Arizona this spring now are hoping to take their fight to November ballots.
The Invest-in-Ed campaign proposes to boost funding for Arizona schools through an increased state income tax on the wealthiest Arizonans. It would apply to couples earning more than $500,000 per year, or single-person households earning more than $250,000. To get their proposal onto Arizona ballots next fall, the group needs more than 150,000 signatures by July 5.
John Buckley is chair of the Invest-in-Ed campaign and a longtime high school teacher in Mesa.
“We’ve seen a governor and a legislative body who have decided they can only do half-measures, so we’re going to take the reins and we’re going to do it ourselves,” he says.
More than 50,000 Arizona teachers and supporters marched to the state Capitol in a five-day walkout in April and early May. They called for legislators to raise pay for teachers and school staff, and increase classroom spending.
In the end, Gov. Doug Ducey and state lawmakers offered teachers a 19-percent raise over three years, but the state budget did not address teachers’ concerns about restoring school funding to 2008 levels.
Invest-in-Ed organizers want the ballot measure to cover some of the demands that were not met after the walkout. They expect their proposed tax could raise $690 million to be put toward teacher salaries, maintenance and operating costs. Buckley says that could make an important impact.
“There’s large changes that we have to make to make sure that we can fund education in this state, and this is one piece of funding education,” he adds.
Organizers say they’re optimistic their measure would have support. A recent survey by research group FM3 showed 70 percent of surveyed Arizona voters say there is “great need” for additional public school funding, and around 65 percent indicated they may vote yes on a measure that raised taxes on high earners to make it happen.
Public News Service – AZ