This afternoon, in his 2018 State of the State address, Governor Doug Ducey made some important commitments to public K-12 education. He promised that 80 percent of the new priorities of the budget to be released Friday will be for education. And he listed the following specific areas to be funded:
- All-day kindergarten
- Career and technical education
- Computer coding
- Reducing waitlists
- Closing the achievement gap
- Rural high-speed broadband
- New school buses
All of these are worthy areas to focus on. Regarding career and technical education (CTE), I hope the governor is referring to restoration of funding for 9th grade CTE classes. That would be a worthwhile investment in one of the most effective programs Arizona has to offer: high school students completing CTE programs (from welding to medical technicians and more) have an amazing 98 percent graduation rate.
And regarding new school buses, I am optimistic that Governor Ducey is referencing capital funding more broadly. That category includes not just school buses but also building maintenance, textbooks, and technology. Districts have seen their budget for these items cut by 85 percent in recent years, totaling tens of millions of dollars for many school districts. In my travels across Arizona speaking with teachers, principals and superintendents, restoring capital funding has been an almost universal plea.
Beyond this list, I hope to see additional funding for increased teacher salaries, since the teacher shortage in Arizona is at crisis levels. Close to 2,000 classrooms statewide have no teacher. This has several causes, but in many cases low salaries make the teaching profession simply impossible for young teachers with families to stay in. Some districts, like Sedona-Oak Creek, start teachers as low as $27,500 per year. That's only a few thousand dollars a year higher than the recently approved $12 minimum wage.
So how will the state pay for all of these things? The Governor's budget will be released on Friday, so until then we can only speculate. Last week we did get a hint from Senate President Steve Yarbrough, however, that the legislature may vote to make the 0.6-cent Prop 301 sales tax for education permanent. This would avoid a major fiscal cliff currently expected in 2021, open the door to further discussion on how to fund education for the long term, and would be a big win for education supporters.
I look forward to working with Governor Ducey and the legislature to solve these kinds of problems and find solutions as Arizona's next Superintendent of Public Instruction. Your donation of $10, $50 or $100 will help make sure I win this election and have a seat at the table to advocate for you and for our schools starting in 2019. Thank you, as always, for your support, and please keep spreading the word about our campaign!