AZ Remains Third-Highest State for K-12 Education Cuts
PHOTO: Children’s Action Alliance president Dana Naimark says state lawmakers have been raising expectations for schools, while Arizona has endured the third-highest cuts to K-12 education since the recession. CREDIT: CAA.
PHOTO: Children’s Action Alliance president Dana N
PHOENIX – Since the recession began, only Oklahoma and Alabama have beaten Arizona when it comes to K-12 per student funding cuts, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The ranking comes in spite of a recent $82 million increase in state schools funding, says Dana Naimark, president of Children's Action Alliance.
"Despite that increase for this year, we're still 17 percent below where we were before the recession began in fiscal year 2008, per student," she says.
Naimark adds lawmakers are raising expectations for student achievement, but ignoring the investments needed to meet those higher standards.
She says many schools have been forced to increase class sizes, defer building repairs and maintenance and cut numerous activities and programs.
"We no longer have state funding for full-day kindergarten,” she explains. “We no longer have state funding for pre-school. We have cut literacy programs for parents and children. We've cut into adult education."
In addition, Naimark says more classroom supplies are personally provided by teachers and parents, who are also being asked to pay more for extracurricular activities.
She wants lawmakers to come up with a long-term plan to fund Arizona's schools to a level that meets the expectations of parents, students, teachers and taxpayers. Otherwise, lawmakers are setting the state up for failure by raising expectations while defunding schools.
"A high priority is building up the rainy day fund,” she says. “Certainly we have new tax cuts that are still being phased in, that were passed in prior years, that are being phased in this year and next year. and that is going to eat into the revenue that's available for education."
Legislative leaders say lower taxes are key for economic growth. Naimark counters, so is education.
"We know that if we want Arizona's economy to prosper, we have to keep up a very skilled, trained, agile workforce,” she says. “And certainly a key area for that is K-12 education."