AZ Tax Backers Seize on New School Spending Report
PHOENIX - Arizona has made the deepest cuts to elementary and secondary education of any state in the nation during the past five years, according to a new report from the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Report co-author Phil Oliff says Arizona cut education spending by double the national average.
"There are 35 states in which state funding for K-through-12 education per pupil is now below 2008 levels, after adjusting for inflation. The average cut has been 9.6 percent. Arizona's cut was 21.8 percent."
Supporters of a ballot measure to make Arizona's temporary one-cent sales tax permanent say the report shows why the initiative to increase education funding should pass. Opponents argue the initiative is a tax hike, and that it's up to the Legislature to decide how tax money is spent.
Children's Action Alliance President Dana Naimark says Arizona lawmakers have ignored state education spending formulas to the tune of $750 million.
"There's no more state funding for preschool. There's no more state funding for full-day kindergarten. There have been major cuts in what is called "soft capital," which is a budget that schools use for classroom supplies, books and computers."
Ann-Eve Pedersen chairs the committee behind the Proposition 204 ballot measure to make the one-cent sales tax permanent. Pedersen says the dedicated education funding is needed to insulate Arizona's children from politics.
"We have to at least provide a baseline of support that is immune from all of the politics that take place at the State Capitol. Our kids get turned into political footballs."
Pederson says the current level of state funding for schools is not sustainable and already has led to schools being closed in a number of Arizona communities.
The report is online at cbpp.org.