Sarah James

Recent well-funded attacks on Prop 208 have confused Arizona voters, but this initiative is a lifeline for Arizona children. Education has long been a concern in Arizona which has been made acute by drastic cuts to education funding over the past few decades. 

Despite a slight boost in funding in 2018, education continues to be severely underfunded in Arizona. 

Now that we are adapting to the pandemic and trying to get students and teachers back to school safely, we are seeing just how harmful the state’s continued underfunding of education has been. 

As an educator and parent, I have seen and experienced firsthand the consequences of an underfunded system. 

I have taught classes of 38 sixth graders who can hardly fit in my classroom, and my son has been in a class with 33 other 5th grade students. 

Securing funding for my orchestra and choir programs can feel like another part-time job, and I know my peers have the same struggles. 

We have seen our pay slashed and are now seeing teachers working harder than ever to provide instruction to both in-person and remote students without any additional compensation. This is effectively a pay cut.

 Our devastating teacher shortage has also been exacerbated by this pandemic. As of mid-September, we had 1,728 teaching positions vacant, 3,079 teaching positions filled by noncertified staff, and within one month of school starting 751 teachers quit. 

The system is not sustainable and to say a solution is past due is an understatement. 

Our constitution guarantees Arizona students a public education paid for and improved upon through taxation.

 Over the years our lawmakers have continually cut taxes – especially for the most prosperous – leaving our state budget without the funding education desperately needs. When used appropriately, taxes uplift our communities.

Invest in Ed will affect only the top 1 percent of Arizona income earners and will bring upwards of 940 million dollars into our schools every year. 

The proposed surcharge of 3.5 percent is applicable only to income over $250,000 for single filings, and $500,00 for joint filings. For an individual making $251,000 (taxable income), that amounts to $35 per year. 

Half of the money brought in by Proposition 208 will go toward compensation for teachers and classroom support personnel; 25 percent will go toward compensation for student support personnel; 12 percent will go toward CTE (career and technical education); 10 percent will go toward mentoring programs to help with teacher retention; and 3 percent will go to a scholarship fund for the Arizona Teacher’s Academy. 

Half of Arizona teachers leave the profession within the first five years of service. The mentoring programs and scholarships to the Teachers Academy will encourage new teachers to join the profession and help increase teacher retention.  

While opponents have tried to portray Prop 208 as an enemy of small businesses, the reality is that these businesses will not be affected at all. The average taxable income of small business owners in Arizona is under $50,000. 

IRS tax data shows that less than 3 percent of Arizona taxpayers who claim at least a portion of their income from businesses they own have taxable incomes above the 250k/500k threshold.

Additionally, both small businesses and larger businesses will benefit from Proposition 208 because a well-educated workforce helps attract and retain businesses to our state. Fighting Prop 208 in blanket opposition to any and all taxation is short-sighted. 

We need to uphold the Arizona constitution and we need to invest in our future. Proposition 208 does both. I support Invest in Ed and hope Arizonans will vote YES on Nov. 3.

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