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Teachers: Prop 123 Money Not Enough to Help AZ Schools

The Arizona Federation of Teachers says school districts across the state are starting another year with inadequate funding and a shortage of qualified teachers. (AlexBrylov/iStockphoto)
The Arizona Federation of Teachers says school districts across the state are starting another year with inadequate funding and a shortage of qualified teachers. (AlexBrylov/iStockphoto)
August 10, 2016

PHOENIX - Despite an infusion of extra money approved by voters, a teachers' group said Arizona students heading back to classes this week are still being shortchanged. The Arizona Federation of Teachers said deep budget cuts by lawmakers have left the education system with inadequate funding and a shortage of qualified teachers, particularly hurting lower-income students in public schools.

Misty Arthur, executive director of the Federation, said money from the constitutional amendment Proposition 123 will bring some relief, but is by no means a long-term solution.

"You're kicking the can down the road, putting a Band-Aid on a problem: 'Oh, well, look what we're trying.' And it has to be greater, it has to go deeper than that," she said. "It has to be a plan that stays in action for the long haul."

Proposition 123, which settled a lawsuit over inadequate education funding, will transfer about $300 million a year from the state's land trust fund over the next decade. Arthur said the new funds will cover small raises for teachers, but won't decrease class sizes or help bring standardized test scores up to the national average.

Arthur said even with the new money, Arizona education ranks 46th out of 50 states in funding per student. She said that puts minority and low-income students, who make up a disproportionate number of kids in public schools, at a major disadvantage. She added that low pay is forcing good teachers to leave the profession, or leave the state.

"Our education system is just getting worse and worse," she lamented. "And if we don't really invest in education, if we don't start putting real money in there, then it's never going to change."

Arizona legislative leaders have said the state hasn't sufficiently recovered from the great recession for them to restore education funding to pre-2008 levels.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ