Anyone who has been to my website, seen my campaign materials, or heard me speak, knows that quality public education is a priority for me. Truth is, being a good teacher is hard work, and it isn’t getting any easier in Arizona.
It doesn’t have to be this way. As the Arizona Funding Pre-K-12 Education Town Hall just concluded, it isn’t about the percentage of the State’s budget “pie” that goes to public education, but the “size of the pie.” The K-12 education budget Gov. Ducey proposed is almost $1B short of the funding our districts received in 2008! It would take just 1/12th of the sales tax relief state lawmakers have granted corporations annually to bring us back to that 2008 level.
Coincidentally, $1B is what we need to bring our teacher salaries up to the U.S. median. With almost 4,000 classrooms without a certified teacher, 24 percent of our teachers eligible to retire this year, and our colleges of education not graduating enough teachers into our pipeline, this crisis is about to reach tsunami proportions. All self-inflicted damage, as our legislators fight the repeatedly demonstrated will of the people to provide accessible, quality public education.
Besides reevaluating each corporate sales tax giveaway, we should examine the education tax credit program that allows individuals and corporations to contribute to School Tuition Organizations (STOs), rather than putting their tax dollars into Arizona’s General Fund, another $94M districts schools miss out on each year.
This year’s bill, SB 1467, continues the acceleration of growth in public funding for private schools. It increases the maximum scholarship amount faster every year and expands the number of students eligible.
These STOs are “non-profit” organizations (If they pay their owners/directors enough salary, like AZ Senate President Yarbrough, they can’t make a “profit”) that keep 10 percent of the scholarship contributions. Individual tax payers, currently, can contribute up to $1,107 (versus $200 for a district school). Corporations have no limit on what they can contribute to STOs as long as the state-wide caps have not been met. For the Low-Income Corporate Income Tax Credit, the state-wide cap is over $89 million. It is important to note that the “low-income” designation for this credit means a family of four can earn as much as almost $83,000. The other type of tax credit is the Disabled/Displaced Corporate Income Tax Credit. This year, the state-wide cap is $5 million. Not surprisingly, both of these caps have increased each year.
With all the loopholes available to big corporations, at least 74 percent of them pay the minimum $50 in state income tax each year. When individuals and corporations get to pick and choose where their tax dollars go, the general fund “pie” is smaller, and our infrastructure, district schools, and other public needs suffer.
Learn more at www.LyonforAZ.com.