As a Lake Valley Elementary School 4th grade teacher and an Arizona educator for 21 years, I have witnessed firsthand how a decade of budget cuts to our schools have taken their toll on K12 education. This is especially true in our state’s rural counties, which have been decimated by politicians’ refusal to support our students, teachers and schools. Fortunately, the 2020 election offers voters a chance to do the work politicians won’t do by passing Proposition 208.
Statewide, Prop 208 will create $940 million annually in new, voter-protected funds that may only be spent on education. The tough accountability measures included in Prop 208 ensure that no politician can touch this revenue – ever. This ballot measure’s strong accountability component means these new education dollars cannot be redirected to pet political projects, a ploy that continually leaves our students and teachers shortchanged.
This measure will be an absolute game changer for students in Yavapai County. Why? Because if Prop 208 passes, schools in our county will receive about $14.3 million in new education revenue each year. Again, strict accountability measures will ensure that the vast majority of this revenue gets spent in the classroom – to reduce class sizes, provide more educational resources, hire new teachers and to fund long-overdue pay raises for the experienced teachers we need to keep in the profession.
Besides restoring the $1.5 billion in permanent budget cuts extracted from school districts by the state Legislature over the past decade, Prop 208 will also increase funding for Yavapai County’s career and technical education programs. This piece of the K-12 education system helps students who aren’t on the college track develop skills and achieve the certifications they need to land quality jobs after they graduate.
For 99 percent of the residents of Yavapai County and our state, the passage of Prop 208 will not cost a penny. The measure, if passed, will impose a 3.5 percent income tax surcharge only on taxable annual income over $250,000 for single tax filers or on taxable income over
$500,000 for married couples filing jointly or heads of households.
Over the past decade, the Arizona economy has soared while our schools have been shortchanged. As K-12 education seeks to safely recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we have the ability to finally prioritize education not as politicians and wealthy special interests do – as an afterthought – but as one of Arizona’s top priorities. After years of going backwards on education funding at the expense of Yavapai County schools, Prop 208 provides voters with a chance to increase education funding once and for all, and to do so with iron-clad accountability.
In Yavapai County and in each of the state’s 15 counties, a “yes” vote on Prop 208 will raise teacher pay, create resources to hire more teachers and help reduce class sizes. I hope you will join teachers across the county and the state and vote yes on Proposition 208.