Wed, April 01

Commentary: ‘Open Letter’ misses mark on fiscal contributions to education by lawmakers

Rep. Bob Thorpe

Rep. Bob Thorpe

I recently read the “Open Letter from Northern Arizona Teachers” posted on Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans’ Facebook page and published by the Arizona Daily Sun. For the casual reader, it’s obvious that the letter is politically motivated, where unsubstantiated statements are made, such as “Teachers of northern Arizona have long been ignored by our current state representatives.”

During my seven years in the Arizona Legislature, I have accepted many invitations from teachers, district schools, and school officials and have had the pleasure of touring numerous schools, including JTED programs and have attended the annual “Take Your Legislator to School” events.

It is always a treat for me to spend time with teachers and school officials and to have unscripted Q&A with students. Additionally, I routinely meet with district officials in my office and at their district offices concerning bills and budget issues.

Our schools have not been ignored.

I am an ardent supporter of the Coconino High School Coconuts robotics team and have attended many of their events, including being a judge at one competition.

The Coconut students and their coaches have been my guest at the Capitol numerous times, including being recognized on the House Floor, demonstrating their robots, and most recently testifying about the FIRST Robotics international program before the House Committee on Technology, which I chair. Our students have not been ignored.

Between 2013 and 2017, I, along with my colleagues from LD-6, have voted for and helped dedicate hundreds of millions of dollars in new education spending within the state budget.

In 2018, Republican Governor Doug Ducey announced his “20 by 2020” proposal, as well as a five-year restoration of additional assistance, the largest education funding increase in Arizona state history, which included approximately $646 million in Arizona teacher pay raises through 2021 and $371 million in additional assistance through 2023.

Senator Sylvia Allen and I, along with other Republican House and Senate members, voted for this massive investment in education. It’s important to note that every Democrat House member and most of the Democrat Senate members voted against the long overdue teacher pay raises. Our teachers have not been ignored …by Republicans.

Additionally, in 2018 the Legislature, including Senator Allen and I, voted to extend the Proposition 301 sales tax, which provides approximately $667 million in funding for Arizona schools.

As enacted by the voters in 2000, Proposition 301 was scheduled to end in 2021, so the prompt action by the Legislature extended Proposition 301 education funding for an additional 20-years without the need to send it back to the voters for their approval.

In addition, the Legislature has made targeted investments above and beyond the base education funding and teacher pay increases. This includes results-based funding ($37.6 million starting in FY 2018), college credit by Examination Incentive Program ($5 million starting in FY 2018), early literacy grants ($8 million in FY 2018 increasing to $12 million for FY 2019 and subsequent years), jobs for Arizona graduates ($100,000 starting in FY 2018), computer science pilot program ($1 million starting in FY 2019), and costs of new school construction and school building renewals. Educational funding has not been ignored.

Contrary to the “Open Letter from Northern Arizona Teachers,” your LD-6 state legislators have not ignored our teachers, our students, or our schools.

It is fully documented that we have voted to support education because of the important job that it performs for the future of Arizona.

Rep. Bob Thorpe represents ARizona’s 6th legislative district in the Arizona House of Representatives.

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