Wed, Feb. 26

Editorial: Increased taxes for education must include change in school funding mechanism

The latest study on improving Arizona’s school system points to a predictable solution. Increase the current 0.6-cent education sales tax.

That was the voter-approved sales tax designed to address past shortfalls the courts ruled were owed by the state to Arizona schools.

The newest recommendation from Classrooms First Initiative Council calls for at least doubling that current special levy.

It’s a predictable course of action, and certainly not without merit when two of our local school districts in the Verde Valley are asking voters to extend current budget overrides.

But the pattern of increasing sales and property taxes for education needs to come with a corresponding change in the way tax allocations for schools are used.

That includes individual school districts as well as the state’s education bureaucracy. It’s important to remember that 42 percent of the state budget is allocated to K-12 education, and 51.5 percent includes all education spending combined (K-12, State School Facilities Board and state aid to community colleges and universities), according to the 2016-17 Joint Legislative Budget Committee Final Report.

Despite that, various studies all show Arizona ranking near or at the bottom of national rankings for classroom spending.

Before hitting up taxpayers again we need to see evidence of how the state is downsizing its state-level education bureaucracy to dedicate more dollars to the classroom.

We need to see examples of the Arizona school districts that make the best use of the tax dollars they are allocated. We need to make that the model for every school district in Arizona, with financial penalties for districts that do not measure up.

Arizonans are not opposed to spending more for better schools. There is ample evidence of that through the bond issues and overrides district taxpayers have approved to make up the unfunded gaps by the state.

But somewhere along the line we also need to see evidence of systemic change in the structure of Arizona’s funding mechanism for schools.

Throwing more money at a system that is not working is not the answer.

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