Over 15 years ago, in 2000, voters passed Proposition 301, directing the Arizona State Legislature to provide additional funding specifically for education. Unfortunately, the Legislature circumvented the intent of Proposition 301 by using a loophole in the language which permitted them to ignore the funding mandate completely. The Legislature was then ordered by the Arizona state courts, on more than one occasion, to comply with Proposition 301, but the Legislature chose to ignore the court order by using the same loophole. Consequently, the Arizona Department of Education has failed to receive billions of dollars in lost funding that had been designated for Arizona schools by the state's voters.
Prop 123, in essence, is Governor Ducey's compromise proposal with the AZ Education Association (and others) to begin to correct this deficit. In the intervening years since the passage of Proposition 301, Arizona has fallen anywhere from 45th to 50th in the top three education funding categories (per pupil spending, student/teacher ratio, and teacher salaries), depending on the poll. The bottom line is that AZ is now the worst state in the nation in education funding. Even from a pure business perspective, if we are to be successful in attracting more commerce and industry to our state, don't we need an educated citizenry to fill those positions? And what company would be attracted to establish itself in a state with the poorest schools in the nation?
Although imperfect, Proposition 123 appears to be the best offer the citizens and schools of Arizona are going to receive from our state government at this time. Period. Proposition 123 should be viewed simply as this: a springboard used to correct a 17- year-old injustice that will move us toward the massive reconstruction of education now required in this state. For the detractors on the left, who refuse to vote for anything the governor proposes or may take credit for, and those on the right who are, in my opinion, overly concerned about the value of state lands (I've done the research), let me simply ask this: Would you rather play politics with education, yet again, or would you rather the state begin funding our students, decreasing class sizes, and increasing teacher salaries NOW? Voting "No" on this proposal is a vote against the children, teachers, and schools of our now floundering state, and may set us back another 20 years. Is that notion even remotely acceptable? The answer to me is rather obvious: Vote "Yes" on Proposition 123.
P.S. There is $74 million of one-time money that will be continued annually if Proposition 123 passes. However, that money will be revoked if Proposition 123 fails. Therefore, schools and the students they serve will face another funding reduction next year if Prop 123 goes down.
—L. Scott Cleaves
Middle School Teacher, Tucson