Incremental funding increases are good for Arizona’s students, but more resources are needed.

This post was originally published here.

Our recent poll results show that education remains the top issue among Arizona voters, and that teacher pay and school funding are the leading concerns. Governor Ducey’s budget proposal prioritizes education, allocating the majority of available state funds to support K-12 education. Incremental funding increases each year, combined with meaningful policy conversations around our shared statewide goals and a willingness to work together, are good for Arizona’s students.

To be clear, this budget does not provide all the resources needed to meet the shared goals we have for education in the state, as outlined in the Arizona Education Progress Meter. The proposal does not address the fiscal cliff faced by education in just three years with the expiration of the Prop 301 sales tax, which generates $640 million. It does not identify new revenues for education investments that have the potential to strengthen Arizona for the long term, nor does it fully address how to raise teacher pay to the national median by 2022 – one of the eight shared goals.

That said, Governor Ducey’s budget proposal is an important step forward. It represents a sizeable investment in education. Most important is the governor’s pledge to restore district and charter additional assistance by 2023, starting with $100 million in FY2019. This funding restoration has the potential to free up dollars for school districts to support other priorities, like increasing teacher pay. We are also pleased to see more funding for early literacy interventions and career and technical education.

Arizona’s education system – early education, K through 12, community colleges, and universities – requires continued, reliable investments over time. Expect More Arizona is eager to work together, across party lines, to find long-term funding solutions that support the success of every student, regardless of background, income or zip code.

Join a majority of Arizonans who believe that education is their top priority.

Contact your elected leaders today to tell them how you feel about the budget proposal and urge them to prioritize education this legislative session.

Here are the highlights of the Governor’s budget proposal:

  • $116 million for student growth and inflation (to account for increases in the number of K-12 students statewide).
  • $88.1 million in debt financing leveraged by $5.1 million from the General Fund to construct new schools or expand capacity. (Meaning the state will use $5.1 million from the General Fund to make the payments on loans needed for school construction, which is particularly important for districts struggling to pass a local bond initiative.)
  • $35.2 million for building renewal grants to improve or repair aging school facilities, plus $10 million added to the current state budget for additional grants before June 30, 2018.
  • $34 million for the second year of the teacher salary increase and moving the total increase into the base level to ensure it will be adjusted for inflation every year. (Moving the increase into the base level means the overall two-year salary increase of $68 million will be a permanent pay increase, accounted for in the General Fund budget and adjusted according to the rate of inflation.)
  • $4 million to continue expanding early literacy funding for full-day kindergarten and other critical early childhood programs. ($8 million in flexible funding was allocated in the FY18 budget for low-income schools to use toward full-day Kindergarten or other early literacy interventions to increase the numbers of third graders proficient in reading. An additional $4 million would bring the FY19 total to $12 million.)
  • $2.5 million to expand the Governor’s Partnership for K-12 Computer Science pilot program that will allow schools to offer high-quality, rigorous training for new computer science teachers.
  • $2 million to fully fund large Joint Technical Education Districts (JTEDs), which serve more than half of all students attending JTEDs.
  • $7.6 million in other key education investments on information technology projects and assessments.
  • $27M for the first installment of the debt-service for university capital
  • $8M for university operations (toward the resident student funding model)
  • $0 new funding for community colleges

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