Red For Ed lifted the veil from our eyes and put the issue of corporate tax giveaways front and center in the fight to restore public education funding in Arizona.
The Red For Ed movement took the Arizona Capitol by storm in 2018. It started with a trickle on the first Wednesday that we were told to wear red to the Legislature. It peaked on budget night when hundreds of teachers and public education supporters filled the galleries and overflow rooms in the Senate and the House to watch the all-night budget process, while others held a candlelight vigil on the lawn.
I fully support the Red for Ed movement and their demands for raises for teachers and support staff; sustainable, designated, long-term funding for education; restoration of public education funding back to 2008 levels; and no new tax giveaways until the schools are funded.
When the Tea Party– under the control of then Governor Jan Brewer and former President of the Senate Russell Pearce– started the annual scheduled corporate tax cuts, in 2011, they cut corporate taxes by $100 million. By 2017, the scheduled corporate tax cut was more than $1 billion. It’s no wonder that the state owed the schools around $1 billion, even before the pandemic.
Arizona obviously needs more funding for education, and the question in 2020 is: what will be the revenue source.
Public education is the road forward for our children and our country. It’s time the Arizona Legislature fully funded it. I supported the 2018 Invest In Ed Citizens Initiative, which would have raised dedicated funding for public education but was knocked off the ballot with a lawsuit. The Invest In Ed Citizens Initiative 2.0 will be on the Nov. 3, 2020 ballot. Invest in ED 20. could bring in around $1 billion by adding a 3.5% fee on individual personal income over $250,000 and couples making more than $500,000. If you make less $250,000 or $500,000, your taxes won’t change. You can watch the town hall video about Invest in Ed here. (The Republican alternative for raising funds for education is to raise sales tax.)
The money to restore K-12 public education, the community colleges and the university system is in the corporate tax giveaways; that is why I have voted against every tax break in my four years. As a Progressive Democrat and Clean Elections candidate, my independent voting record shows that I vote with the people in mind.
The Legislature should review all of the tax giveaways, determine which ones are effective and affordable, eliminate the ones that are narrow in benefit and put performance measures and review dates on any that remain. Many tax giveaways have no end dates, no dollar caps, no review and no performance measures, such as the number or type of jobs created. Billions is given away each year in tax cuts, tax abatement and sweetheart deals, while the People’s To-Do List — education, healthcare, infrastructure and security — is neglected.
When I say “education at all levels,” I mean “all levels,” including early childhood education and adult literacy. During the budget battle of 2018, the Republicans left $56 million in earmarked federal childcare subsidies on the table. In the middle of the night, I proposed an amendment to the budget to spend those funds, but it was not in the GOP game plan to restore any of the $80 million in childcare subsidies that they cut during the Brewer/Pierce era of extreme austerity. Arizona is the ONLY STATE in the US that didn’t take the federal funds in 2018; the lobbyists said that one Legislator stopped $56 million from being distributed to families living in poverty. The state has since decided to take those federal funds, but state childcare subsidies were never restored.
With the COVID19 virus truncating the second session of the 54th Legislature, many bills were left on the cutting room floor — including my Maternal and Child Health bills and my Truth in Renting bill. The Legislature will have many tough financial and public health decisions to make in 2021. Schools could get a significant amount of money from Invest in Ed 2.0 and from Smart and Safe, the legalization of adult use marijuana, which is also on the ballot. They will need extra funds to respond safely to the pandemic. (You can watch the Smart and Safe town hall video here.)
Democrats are poised to pick up seats in 2020. It’s time to end the tyranny of a few right-wing ideologues who call the shots and hold our state government hostage. In the 54th Legislature, Democrats held 48% of the seats, but because of Republican gamesmanship, only a handful of Democratic bills were heard.
It’s time for a new day in Arizona.
For more information, here are a few blog posts and YouTube links on education.
Here are a few of my one-minute updates on Red for Ed and the budget process from my office at the Capitol. I have an Education Playlist on my YouTube Channel; to see the collection, go here.
Here is a video on education that I did for my 2016 campaign.
[Caption for above video.] Thirty-three percent of Arizona school children who are on free or reduced lunch programs are not proficient in English reading by the fourth grade. Recently, we learned that 1400 third graders will be held back because they can’t read and they failed a high-stakes test. Instead of focusing on why Arizona’s school children aren’t doing well in school, let’s step back and look at the families. Twenty percent of Arizona children have parents who are not fluent in English. We not only need preschool, all-day kindergarten, and fully funded public education, we also need reading tutors, librarians and adult literacy. If we can help parents learn to read and speak English, they can better help their children read, and they will be qualified for better jobs. Help me help families thrive. Together we can build a stronger Arizona for future generations.