Defining Proposition 123 for SoPho and Laveen.
South Phoenix (SoPho) and Laveen knows as much as anybody that our public school system is underfunded. Every year, this problem costs us valuable teachers, new textbooks and after school programs, and it is our children who suffer. On May 17, we have the opportunity to help the Laveen and Roosevelt districts by voting “Yes” for Prop 123!
This proposition would provide more funding to our schools as soon as June this year. In fact, independent state economists estimate that the Laveen Elementary District, which has 6,000 students would receive roughly $1.3 million, while Roosevelt, which educates 9,000 students, would gain about $2 million! This is just the beginning of the increased funding under Prop 123. Even larger annual increases will follow year after year for a period of 10 years. On a whole, this statewide ballot initiative, which also helps charter schools, will put $3.5 BILLION into schools over the next decade.
This increase is a great first step on the longer journey to improve our public K-12 system. It also doesn’t raise taxes but responsibly uses the state land trust, which already exists to support public education. This trust is now worth $5 billion and reputable state economists project it will still continue to grow under Prop 123. The state also has millions of acres of unsold trust land that is worth an estimated $70 billion.
Yet, while this trust is overflowing with money and backed by a huge amount of unsold trust lands, annual trust distributions to the trust’s lawful owners – public K-12 education – have averaged only $65 million. Split among hundreds of districts and charters, it is easy to see how state land trust contributions to public education have remained an afterthought until the introduction of Prop 123. It’s also easy to see how many people question just what benefit the trust currently provides to its beneficiaries, our public schools.
You might ask how does Prop 123 help our teachers? Despite the value and growth of this important education asset, our public K-12 system is currently in crisis and is poorly equipped to address an alarming teacher shortage and staggering levels of teachers leaving their current assignments to go to other states or leaving teaching entirely.
Prop 123 was negotiated with helping teachers in mind. The previously mentioned increases to school funding that would take place this fiscal year can even be applied as retroactive pay raises for teachers and school employees.
The fact remains that teacher pay in Arizona has not kept pace with what teachers are able to earn in other states. This leaves teachers in a terribly difficult decision, and often they must choose between their career or being able to provide for their families. Too many times, they cannot do both.
That is the scenario that prompted groups like the Arizona Education Association and the Arizona School Boards Association to sue the state to restore inflation funding and renew our public commitment to our students. Sadly, that is the scenario that will continue if voters reject Prop 123. Contrary to public belief, there is no court order that demands “back pay” to schools from the Legislature and there no evidence of a “better deal” waiting for schools if Prop 123 fails.
After five painful and expensive years locked in court, the education community and state leaders negotiated additional funding that provides Arizona schools, teachers, students and the economy with financial certainty that has been absent for too long and left too many students waiting.
Prop 123 has Bipartisan support from the education and business communities. Prop 123 is enjoying overwhelming support from the education and child welfare community, including groups like the Arizona Parent Teacher Association, Expect More Arizona, Helios Education Foundation, Stand for Children Arizona, Children’s Action Alliance and Save Our Schools AZ.
From the business community, the support has been just as impressive. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and many local chambers of commerce and business groups have endorsed the measure. So has Greater Phoenix Leadership, East Valley Partnership, Southern Arizona Leadership Council and many others.
In Prop 123, each of these organizations see a chance to improve the lives of students and prepare Arizona for future economic growth and capabilities. For the first time in memory, the need to improve public education has become the number one priority of the business community and even the general public, which is more concerned about our schools than any other issues.
The link between strong schools and a strong economy is gaining widespread recognition, but we must credit leaders who have made strengthening this connection a critical goal. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, in a recent event announcing his full support for Prop 123, said partisanship cannot stand in the way of progress.
“Simply put, there is not a more powerful economic engine that a strong education system that prepares every child for success,” Stanton said. “And I’ll work with anyone and support any plan that advances that cause.
On May 17, SoPho and Laveen can take the critical first step towards improving our public education system that employs 50,000 teachers who are charged with educating Arizona’s 1.1 million students. This plan helps to balance our current and future educational needs.
It is nothing short of critical that SoPho and Laveen residents support Prop 123 and demonstrate this support by voting on May 17! Failure to do so will only continue the underfunding of our schools and trigger more court battles over school spending. Our state doesn’t need more legal bills. We need money for Arizona schools, teachers and our students, who will become the leaders of this state. I encouracge all of you to get out and vote “Yes” on Prop 123!
Small Business Owner and SoPho Resident