The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that Arizona will spend 17 percent less per student on education this year than it did in 2008 before the Great Recession. That’s despite the fact that, according to the National Education Association (NEA), Arizona ranked dead last for expenditures per student for public K-12 schools for a number of years!
Only Oklahoma and Alabama have cut more state funding for education since 2008.
Thanks to the education-hating Arizona State Legislature (many legislators are on record stating that public education is socialism), schools are so hard up, they have to regularly go begging to the voters in their districts for tax overrides…special assessments on top of local property taxes.
Most Arizona school districts are desperate for money!
In my own district, the president of the school board admits that starting teacher salaries are so low, teachers who have families automatically qualify for food stamps and other public assistance. Class sizes have grown to 30-40 students. Many districts don’t have money to replace leaky roofs and buy school buses. And, despite their low salaries, most teachers are forced to buy many of the school supplies for their classes.
Imagine what would happen without these overrides.
What happened to the money? Much of it was stripped from the state’s budget and used to lower taxes for the wealthy and for large corporations. Some of it was redirected to charter schools. And some of the money was directed to Student Tuition Organizations (STO), the largest of which is operated by a state legislator. STOs provide tax credits (not deductions) for donations to private and public schools. In other words, the funds are never collected by the state and the tax credits come directly out of the state’s general fund.
Oddly, the tax credits for private schools are more than double those for public schools. And the operator of an STO gets a 10 percent management fee and there is no requirement that they even have to award tuition scholarships to students! (Is it any wonder the legislator who sponsored the orginal bill operates the largest STO?)
The sad fact is, over the past 5 years, the Arizona legislature has been far more concerned about protecting guns than educating children.