Jonathan Butcher

Proposition 204: Not as Advertised

Posted on September 17, 2012 | Type: | Authors: Jonathan Butcher, Byron Schlomach
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By Byron Schlomach, Ph.D., Director of the Goldwater Institute’s Center for Economic Prosperity, and
Jonathan Butcher, Education Director for the Goldwater Institute

Every Arizonan wants the same thing when it comes to our schools. We want all children to be challenged and prepared for the future, to be safe, and to have excellent teachers. Clearly it takes resources to accomplish these goals.

Proposition 204 would increase the state sales tax by one-cent and is being sold as a tax increase for schools. But the truth is not all of the money will go to schools and the money that does isn’t promised to go to the classroom.

Prop 204 will spend money on special interest projects—not just schools.

Prop 204 is estimated to raise $1 billion a year in new tax money. Not all of the money will go to schools, however. At least 20 percent will be used to fund a hodge-podge of special interest programs and infrastructure projects that have nothing to do with education. This proposition will send only a portion of the first $1 billion to our schools.Some $225 million will be siphoned off for special interest projects.

None of the Prop 204 money is required to go to the classroom.

Right now almost half of Arizona’s state budget is dedicated to schools. When you add up all the money we spend—from local, state, and federal sources—we spend $9,200 per student per year. Even though school funding has increased over the last decade, the Arizona Auditor General released a report this year that said only 55 cents of every school dollar makes it to the classroom. What’s worse is that in 2000, Arizona voters passed a sales tax increase for schools that was supposed to fund classroom needs. That promise hasn’t been kept.

There is nothing in Prop 204 that will require any of the money to be spent in the classroom. The money will be sent with no strings attached to school districts, and we will have no way to ensure it goes towards classroom activity.

There is no money dedicated to teachers in Prop 204.

In all of the money that is being raised by this new tax, none of it is committed to teachers. There is no dedicated pool for pay increases or bonuses for teachers who are the best of the best. Research shows that children who learn from the best teachers out-perform their peers significantly over time. In some countries, teachers earn six-figure salaries and are recruited from the top of their class in colleges and universities. Out of the $1 billion in new tax money raised by Prop 204, not a single penny is set aside for teacher pay increases.

Prop 204 gives school districts a blank check and requires almost nothing in return.

Only 10 percent of the money that schools will receive is tied to any outcome. Schools will have vague requirements to measure “parent satisfaction” and “student engagement,” but taxpayers deserve an explanation for why so little of this new money will reward student achievement.

This is a billion dollar per year tax increase with no true effort to reform our schools. It is just more spending.

Prop 204 will make Arizona’s sales tax the second-highest in the country.

Increasing the sales tax will mean that in many Arizona cities, the sales tax will be higher than 10 percent.

Arizonans have been hard-hit in the recession and our unemployment rate is over 8 percent. Taxing people more in a tough economy is not a good idea and higher sales taxes affect the middle class and working poor the most.

Prop 204 is not needed to rebuild Arizona’s roads.

According to Prop 204 campaign material, hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent to “rebuild our roads.” But Arizona’s interstate highway condition is rated first among all the states, according to federal government data. Road contractors have contributed 40 percent of the money to fund the Prop 204 campaign. If it passes, they will get $100 million a year from the tax. School unions have contributed just under $150,000 to pass the tax increase. Sadly, Prop 204 is being treated as a slush-fund for highway contractors and unions, the groups who are funding the campaign.

Download the PDF version of this policy memo here

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