Arizonans strongly agree that well-resourced educational opportunities—from early childhood to beyond high school—should be a top priority for state government. Yet for years, Arizona’ schools and students have not been given the support they need. The result has been a shortage of qualified teachers due to very low pay, deep backlogs of school repairs, and unnecessary financial barriers for Arizonans to attend college or university.
Rather than making choices that put Arizona’s students first, elected leaders continue to funnel state resources to private schools and corporations, instead of raising the revenue needed to make these long-overdue changes.
WHERE THE AZCENTER STANDS:
For too long, Arizona students have gone unsupported by the Governor and State Legislature. Decade-old cuts to funding have created obstacles for teachers, administrators, and parents. The best way to ensure long-term prosperity is to protect dedicated revenue streams that allow taxpayers to invest in everything needed to provide students with quality education.
HERE IS HOW THE NEXT GOVERNOR AND STATE LEGISLATURE CAN ACCOMPLISH THIS:
Permanently eliminate the spending cap for K-12 schools – Despite some increases in funding for K-12 public education in Arizona, a constitutional spending cap (known as the Aggregate Expenditure Limit, or AEL) continues to threaten school districts across the state. When total state funding for education exceeds the AEL, schools cannot spend what they have budgeted, and are then forced to make drastic, immediate cuts. While allocating money to schools requires only a simple majority of the legislature, two-thirds must vote to raise the spending cap if those funds exceed the AEL. Unless the spending cap is permanently addressed, funding for public schools will always be jeopardized.
Increase the school funding formula to direct more state aid funds to students experiencing poverty – Today, the decade-old education formulas have failed to improve education outcomes and meet the unique needs of schools servicing students experiencing concentrated poverty. A fully funded opportunity weight would allow Arizona schools to create across-the-board interventions, hire well-trained, high equality educators and support service staff, increase small group tutoring, and additional technical and behavioral resources targeted for schools with higher shares of students experiencing poverty.
Increase funding for the financial aid trust fund and expand state-sponsored financial aid for non-traditional students – Arizona can use state resources to restore crucial financial aid funds for low-income students attending public colleges and universities through the Arizona Financial Aid Trust. Instead of the legislature depositing only $10 million dollars annually, the state can restore the full $45 million dollars that is statutorily required and create new dedicated funding sources to assist non-traditional and returning students pursuing higher education with more opportunities to graduate with less debt.