The Arizona State Legislature and Governor Doug Ducey ended the 2019 Legislative Session with the finalization of the 2019-2020 state budget.
After a large public turnout in favor of increased public education funding during 2018 and continuing into 2019, the Arizona Legislature allocated additional funding to some areas of public education while leaving other areas with little to no increases. (Tweet this)
What increased and what did not
Keeping promises from the 2018 citizen and educator-led demonstrations, Governor Ducey and lawmakers instituted funding for an average 5% teacher raise and to slowly restore classroom funding the state cut more than a decade ago. This funding, however, does not address the 1.1 million children in public schools without $135 million in classroom funding and Arizona still faces a critical teacher shortage in 1,700 classrooms. The pay increase also does not address the $420 million in needed building repairs and maintenance for Arizona’s crumbling education infrastructures.
To learn more about the teacher shortage, view the Arizona PBS special presentation that aired January 2019.
Areas of dispute
Education funding that did increase from previous years is in the hotly contested Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) or “vouchers” for private or public charter schools. While ESA voucher accounts are administered by the Arizona Department of Education (ADE), charters do not report for oversight to ADE and Arizona State Board of Education (AzSBE) but to the independent Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, which is neither elected by Arizona citizens nor appointed by elected state officials. $304 million was allocated toward private or public charter schools through tax credits, ESA vouchers, and 529 plans.
To learn more about charter schools and ESA vouchers, request a private screening of the documentary Backpack Full of Cash.
Read Better Be Better (RBBB), as an organization, strives to highlight the positive in all situations. We would normally applaud any advances made in public education funding, however small, as a reason for celebration. However, the 2019 Arizona State Budget leaves notable gaps in funding and areas where lawmakers and the governor have not done enough to support children for yet another school year.
Funding that should have been used to address 1,700 classrooms without permanent, certified teachers instead became $386 million in tax cuts. (Tweet this)
An additional $542 million that could have addressed building repairs and maintenance and additional classroom funding was deposited into the state’s rainy day fund, which is the fund Governor Ducey claimed in April 2019 would protect Arizona public education during any future economic downturn.
RBBB pleads with lawmakers and state leaders that public education needs protection now, as well as having a future safety net and dedicated, sustainable funding sources. (Tweet this)