For people who don’t know about Arizona’s Proposition 204 (that does link to a site biased in favor of the prop, just in the interests of transparency), the situation basically looks like this:
- School funding in Arizona is shit.
- A few years ago, some people got together and said, “You know what? School funding shouldn’t be shit. If we raised the sales tax by once cent per dollar and gave most of that increased revenue to schools — with some for police and other emergency services — that would be cool, right? Especially if we made it only a temporary measure — say, for 3 years.”
- Said bill received a comfortable majority support, ranging from folks on the mid-left of the political spectrum to folks on the mid-right of same.
- Sales tax revenue did increase, and lo, it was good. At the same time, however, there was some fuckery with cutting other sources of education funding while shifting more monies to privately run prisons and corporate tax breaks.
- The citizenry in Arizona went, “The fuck is this shit? We’re paying more into education and protective services, but the legislature is sucking money out the bottom of those same services. If we want this done right, we’re going to have to try again. Also, the initial measure will be expiring soon.”
- So Proposition 204 was born. It extends the sales tax increase, with about 80% going to education and about 20% going to law enforcement and other services. As an additional precaution, this measure also prevents the legislature from using these funds for other purposes — or from reducing the base education expenditure from where it is now.
Now, there are some arguments against Proposition 204.
Of them, I think the most convincing is that a sales tax — paid by all people who purchase any taxable goods — is regressive. (That is, poorer people pay disproportionately more sales tax relative to their income than do richer people.) This is absolutely true, and it is inequitable to ask poorer people to shoulder even more expenses than they already are.
If Proposition 204 is defeated because enough lower income people manage to get out to vote to say, “No. I love education, but I simply cannot pay any more than I already am,” I will respect that. However, I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen. Of the people I’ve spoken to about this (limited because of constraints due to my profession; a lot because I try to engage with it where I am legally able), most people are like, “Hellz yes, let us fund schools to an un-shit level in this state. I am not thrilled about paying more sales tax, but I support where it is going.”
And this is true for me as well.
Because in the two years prior to the initial sales tax increase, I found myself pink slipped. Both years. As a demonstrably proven, effective, tenacious teacher, working with some of the toughest populations in the state — I found myself without a job due to the fact that school funding in Arizona is shit. And, in the two years after the sales tax increase went into effect, I was not laid off. It’s true that both years we were worried — and in one year there was actual administrative talk of layoffs — but no such pink slipping actually occurred. I am more effective through fourth quarter when I am not also conducting my own employment search.
As well as all the lesser student needs being met. (No, this is not arrogance. Research shows that the decisive element in the classroom is the teacher. I can — but shouldn’t have to — make it work without enough pencils, without enough paper. But I can’t make it work without me.)
In terms of other objections, I care a bit less.
Like, that this sales tax increase was only supposed to be temporary. Unless you are in the population mentioned above, you can kindly shut the fuck up. Lots of people make more money than I do. I have gotten the fuck over paying an extra penny per dollar on my purchases. Do I purchase less than I did six years ago? Maybe. Do I resent curbing my discretionary spending (not food basics, rent, utilities, health care) in order to help fund education in my state? Of course not.
Though I have to admit — that we are even discussing education expenditures as a negotiable element of the budget is fucking ludicrous. The ideal way to cover them is with a progressive taxation structure, but until we can make them happen — We still have to educate our kids. Some way, somehow.
The other objection I hear is that the additional constraints — i.e., not being able to reduce the level of base funding — don’t give the legislature the flexibility it needs.
To which I say — spell it with me now —
The state legislature has already lied to us on this issue at least once — and that’s not counting anything that happened before the first sales tax increase. I don’t trust them at their word to fund education because their word has, in reality, fallen short so many times before. It’s sad that we have to write in statutory safeguards to prevent the legislature from stealing money from our kids — but the shame in that should fall on the people who’ve misappropriated, rather than the people who seek to prevent misappropriation in the future.
- Our kids deserve protection from the legislature. Also, it’s really fucking sad that I even have to type that sentence.
- It’s true that a sales tax is regressive — but it’s the best solution we have for the short term. (For the longer term, I strongly suggest helping to vote pro-education legislators into office.)
- WE HAVE TO FUND EDUCATION BETTER IN THIS STATE. This point should not even be up for discussion.
I have some fucking brilliant kids right now, who deserve so much more than I can give them.