Our economy and quality of life depend on educating our future workforce well and educating the whole child. The education budget bill does not meet our education needs.
It is not enough. I am not clamoring for sky-high funding, but I believe that today’s students deserve to have what my children had here in school 10 years ago. We must restore the cuts.
Let’s be very clear. This budget has a 5.7 percent increase in the per-pupil rate. It is NOT 20 percent.
The only way that school districts will be able to give teachers the governor’s touted 9 percent raise is by using all of the increase for only some of the educators. That provides no improvement for many other problems, like burgeoning class sizes and classes with no permanent teacher.
The increase to District Additional Assistance (DAA) is less than the amount that Gov. Ducey cut to DAA in the first year he was in office. DAA is the money for updating books and software and buses.
Perhaps the most worrisome aspect of this budget is that it has been called unsustainable from the right, the left and the middle. If the economy hiccups, these minor gains will be lost. Instead, I believe our children deserve a reliable funding source for schools.
I met with legislators across the aisle, including the Speaker of the House, to consider alternatives that would have been more reliable, but the majority leadership was intransigent.
This year, both the RedForEd and the March for Our Lives movements made it very clear that we need more school counselors.
With better social/emotional support, children can learn vital skills in coping, assertiveness, empathy and constructive communication.
We need more counselors to help students learn that they have options. Counselors help to prevent bullying, youth suicide and mass shootings. Counselors are needed to help schools respond to tragedies and, more importantly, to prevent students from becoming violent.
There are a few bright spots in this budget. Since January, I have championed the need for a full-time suicide prevention coordinator in the AHCCCS Department and that job is included in this budget.
I have called for increasing the number of auditors in the Department of Revenue to assure corporations pay their fair share at current tax rates.
This budget includes more auditors and they will provide an estimated $55 million for our schools.
In 2017, when the majority legislators offered only 1 percent, I sponsored an amendment for a 4 percent raise for teachers because I have been supportive of teachers and students for many years.
This year, I sponsored an amendment for more school counselors. This budget was rushed through the process in only a few days, so there was not time to prepare it perfectly, but it did bring the debate about counselors to the legislators. Arizona has a woeful 924-to-1 student-counselor ratio, despite the recommended ratio being 250 to 1.
I am continuing to work for every child to have access to the professional support of a school counselor.
The needs of our schools are not being met. Ten years ago, my children had 25 percent to 33 percent more resources in school than today’s students have.
My children had better class sizes and more opportunities for electives like art, music, physical education, languages and so on.
My children had fewer needs for substitute teachers in their schools.
I’m not pressing for limitless funding; I’m working for practical solutions.
I voted “no” on this budget because today’s students deserve to have what my kids had in school.