Journalists’ Roundtable: Education sales tax, teacher protest, school safety plan
March 23, 2018
Local journalists discuss Arizona’s latest news including the extension of the education sales tax, the effect of the teacher protest and Governor Doug Ducey’s school safety plan.
Education Sales Tax
Prop 301, which is a 0.6 percent sales tax increase that is use to fund education, was extended for another 20 years by the legislature. The passing occurs after teachers march at the capitol. Ducey wants to be known as the “education governor” so there was already pressure for him to stop talking and start acting.
Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services says this move makes the most sense for lawmakers. If they had brought this issue to the ballot, it would have become voter protected and they wouldn’t be able to tinker with it in the future.
The fight for teacher pay doesn’t end here. Extending the sales tax only helps to maintain the status quo. Arizona is still dead last when it comes to teacher salary. Fischer says it’s good to take the win, but now it’s time we go back and make the argument that we’re still not paying teachers enough.
Teachers Protest Low Pay
Around 300 teachers showed up to the capitol last Wednesday to protest low pay. It resulted in nine school having to be closed.
Fischer believes the students had a huge hand in making sure something gets done. It includes students who are advocating for all different kinds of issues.
“Students are becoming radicalized in a way I haven’t seen since the 1960s,” Fischer says. “Students have realized that we have power.”
Governor’s School Safety Plan
Ducey laid out some of his ideas for a school safety plan. The governor is doing his best to walk down the middle, but by doing that he isn’t receiving full support from either side.
“The left isn’t satisfied because they don’t think it goes far enough,” Luigi Del Puerto with Arizona Capitol Times says. “What they want to see is a universal background check and a ban on bump stocks. We have a very aggressive gun rights group in Arizona, and they’re saying this is a dumb idea. You have these two extremes attacking the governor’s plan.”
While it’s difficult to do so, there is already a precedent in place that takes away the right to own a firearm if someone has a history of dangerous mental health issues, Fischer says. The question now is, who has the right to label someone as being so mentally unfit that they are unable to own a gun? Judges currently have that power, but the matter is being argued.
Voucher Expansion Vote
Del Puerto says he wouldn’t be surprised if by next week there’s a bill that repeals and replaces the voucher expansion law.
Fishcer says that this could have a negative affect for Republicans if it goes to the ballot. Those who don’t want to spend money to send children to private schools will look at the people who did, including the governor, and that could be a deciding factor at election time.
The current energy initiative being looked at contains a $100 penalty for corporations who don’t meet the new energy standards. Many say that the penalty is merely a slap on the wrist and are calling for it to be taken out of the initiative and be replaced.
“We are nervous in some way that this will be voter approved,” Dianna Nañez of the Arizona Republic says. “What will voters do? Will they want us to be energy efficient? The problem here is the $100, and everybody seems to agree. Everyone thinks it’s laughable. If we can run it and get it in, there’s no teeth anymore.”
Fischer points out that for some companies it may even be cheaper to pay a daily $100 fine compared to the cost of trying to comply with new energy regulations.
“The corporation commission staffers believe this striker that the governor just signed today is unconstitutional,” Del Puerto says. “It’s unconstitutional because it limits the commissioner’s ability to levy fines and go after the public service corporations that they regulate.”