As a parent and teacher, to say I am deeply concerned where education is going in Arizona and the ramifications for the future in education for generations to come here in Arizona is a gross understatement.
It's not enough that when there is a shortfall, the Legislature and our Governor have gone after education. Oh no. Last fall they made it even worse by removing even more of the rights of teachers, adding further insult to injury.
Now, we as voters, have a chance to stop the hemorrhaging to education and further damage by voting yes on the 1 cent sales tax.
I've heard the arguments against the sales tax increase: "I'm taxed enough!" "No more taxes!" "Politicians misuse our money! Why give them more to misuse?" That may all be true. I receive a teachers' salary, so I know what it's like to feel the pinch with Uncle Sam already reaching into our pockets. But my experience as a native Arizonan and teacher has taught me over and over that the politicians cause more damage when there is a shortfall and they make the wrong misguided cuts, then when there are more funds to "misuse." When there are cuts to be made, they go after education like a wounded gazelle on the Serengeti. That alone is an outrage.
Until the voters wise up and vote these predators to education out of office, we have to make our voices heard to do what we can to save education. In this case, it's voting yes on the one cent sales tax increase. We need to keep demanding that these Legislators take a HANDS OFF approach to Arizona's education, which is already coming in last in the nation! (source, and this is just 1 of many sources on this sad fact: http://www.statemaster.com/graph/edu_bes_edu_ind-education-best-educated-index)
How much out of pocket will a sales tax increase affect you? We all have different incomes and consumer habits, but the average appears to be $12/month. I don't know about you, but that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make if it means two-thirds of the sales tax revenue would go to K-12 public education: $695 million to Primary Ed and $203 million to Secondary education.
Will the sales tax increase solve the state's deficit? No, but it is very important to stop the tailspin. If the sales tax initiative fails, K-12 Education will be looking at a 20% reduction in state support for school district operating budgets - 85-90% of the M&O budget is personnel costs. This would be tragic as education is already suffering.
Other critics say money doesn't solve the problem. Sure, there is more to effective teaching and education than "money." But to these critics, I invite them to observe our K-12 classrooms and be down in the trenches with us to see exactly how crucial funding is to education. On that note, our legislature should be required to teach K-12 for 13 weeks (one level grade per week) before touching another penny of education's funding. The experience alone, I am certain, will open their eyes.
Do the right thing by Arizona's children, future and the teachers that will lead them there. Vote YES on May 18th.
Oh, and if you were able to read this, thank a teacher.Jill Henrichsen
(the picture of Mikelle was from a rally at the State Capitol January 2009)