Like many Arizonans, I believe investing in our future means investing in our public schools. Unfortunately, many of our state’s leaders do not share this belief. As a parent, I take this personally. Arizona ranks last in the nation for school funding. We are 49th for teacher pay, and spend $5900 less per pupil than the national average. This funding shortage has led to poor teacher retention rates, overcrowded classrooms, and falling outcomes for our students. Our school budget problems are further exacerbated by the $300 million dollars that are redirected to ineffective private school vouchers. This is not just hurting our kids, but it’s also hurting our economy and the long-term prosperity of our state. In 2020, the voters sought to fix some of our funding problems by passing prop 208, guaranteeing funds for teacher salaries. In service to private special interests, the state legislature overturned the will of the voters and redirected funds to other parts of the state budget. This is unacceptable.
We need to invest in our schools at a rate that is in line with the national average. This includes guaranteeing funding for increasing teacher salaries, professional development for teachers, classroom supplies, and providing adequate resources for students with disabilities. Furthermore, we should ensure that every school has professional career and mental health counselors onsite. Finally, we need to cap spending on private school vouchers, which draw funds away from our public schools. Prioritizing public education investments will not only improve our children’s futures, but will create better outcomes for our economy by ensuring we have an educated workforce and are enticing new businesses to set up shop in Arizona.