Education quality won’t go up unless taxes do, new policy brief suggests

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A new policy brief put out by the Children’s Action Alliance claims the quickest way to repair Arizona’s education system is through higher taxes.

While Gov. Doug Ducey claims education can be funded without raising taxes, critics argue the state’s teacher shortage, overcrowded classrooms and outdated resources prove otherwise. Children’s Action Alliance President Dana Wolfe Naimark says that waiting for the economy to grow before investing in schools will only make the problem worse.

Ted Simons: Anyone over the age of ten that wants to fish, must have a license costing up to $37. Most lakes and streams have a limit on the number of fish you can take. Relying on growth without tax increases is not a way to reinvest in Arizona education. Joining us is the children's action alliance president and CEO. Thank you for joining us. You are saying tax collection is not enough? What's happening here?

Dana Wolfe Naimark: Economic growth will not let us reinvest in public education. Without changing our fiscal policies, so we have to restore revenues to reach our educational goals.

Ted Simons: $1.1 billion less in funding today than 2008, correct?

Dana Wolfe Naimark: We had large cuts during the great recession. Mostly, they have not been restored. For the past few year, voters restored inflation funding, the legislature a little bit more, $1.1 billion still missing.

Ted Simons: Jalb said revenues should increase by about 1.1billion by the year 2020.

Dana Wolfe Naimark: most of the money is spoken for, so we need to pay for more students. We need to pay for people who qualify for Medicaid coverage. We need to pay for university bonding. When you count all of that, there is $300 million left, not enough to restore us back to where we were in 2008.

Ted Simons: Governor, legislature saying they'll make up for the shortfall. Maricopa county the fastest growing in the United States, that can't help but help and the tax base is expanding and that money can be used. All valid points?

Dana Wolfe Naimark: It's valid but it's not enough to get us where we need to be. The governor said we are going to get there without raising taxes. We don't have a realistic plan. Watching won't cut it.

Ted Simons: There is talk about keeping it going and expanding it as well.

Dana Wolfe Naimark: We have the fiscal crisps coming. we'll be deeper in the whole when the cliffs come. Prop 301 has to be restored, rejuvenated. Aside from that, we need to rethink our fiscal priorities. You have heard it over and over again, on your show from the Arizona town hall, business leaders, parents, community groups, people across the state say we need to invest in our students, in our classrooms. Right now we have overcrowded classrooms, out dated books and technology. We have classrooms without enough books and without enough teachers.

Ted Simons: I think people would like to see those things improved. How much is it impacting education achievement? They seem to show Arizona on the upswing, eighth grade math and these kinds of things. We are not doing bad in some areas.

Dana Wolfe Naimark: In math we have made improvements. We know our goals in Arizona, we are far from the goals. Those goals are adopted by governor Ducey, education groups. In third grade reading, we are far from our proficiency goals we set for ourselves. We don't want students going to classrooms without permanent teachers without arts and curricular activities.

Ted Simons: Are Arizona schools, and critics say of these kind of reports and talk, that they are not bad as advertised and they are good or bad as they might be are not that much of a drag on the economy. How do you respond to that?

Dana Wolfe Naimark: Arizona educators do an amazing job. They have been doing a lot with shrinking resources. We have been raising expectations. That's a gap we need to close. There is another we need to close known as the achievement gap. Children that grow up without a lot of resources in their families and neighborhoods, they rely on the public schools to open the doors of opportunity. Children that come to kindergarten and have no books at home. We are doing a lousy job. Nobody says we are meeting expectations to make sure every student has an opportunity in Arizona.

Ted Simons: You are saying the state needs a plan. What kind of plan? What do you have in mind?

Dana Wolfe Naimark: We have in mind that it's up to our governor and people to elect to the legislature, it's within their hands to restore revenue. That could mean wiping out tax credits. We have $400 million in tax credits. There is no evidence that they are achieving our goals. Some have policy goals attached to them. No one can point to the achievement of the goals.

Ted Simons: How do you convince lawmakers that they are not going to rescind those things regardless of what you show them or tell them? How do you change their minds?

Dana Wolfe Naimark: We are speaking to our neighbors as well as to the people at the state capitol. The people elected need to see it as a priority. We are hearing it over and over from all sectors of the community, across political lines, across different groups, seniors, parents, business leaders, time for our elected leaders to listen.

Ted Simons: Talking about how the growing economy, not grown enough as far as you are concerned, correct?

Dana Wolfe Naimark: Right.

Dana Wolfe Naimark: We started the program with the Phoenix boys’ choir. I want to mention that the choir will have appearances coming up around the valley. As you can see here, December 8, 10, 14, 16, 17th, multiple locations around town. You have the website. You have the phone number if you would like to hear more of what you will hear right now. We are going to close the show with the Phoenix boys’ choir. ¶ ¶ ¶

Dana Wolfe Naimark: President, Children's Action Alliance

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