- The Arizona Supreme Court this week removed the Invest in Ed ballot initiative from the November ballot, reports The Arizona Daily Star, due to a significant omission in the wording presented to the initiative petition signers.
- The initiative, which would nearly double the state income tax rate on individuals earning more than $250,000 ($500,000 for couples), neglected to specify that the indexing of income tax brackets to account for inflation would be ceased. The court ruled that the omission would create a significant danger of confusion or unfairness.
- The announcement is a blow to teachers and public school advocates in Arizona, not only because of the removal of the initiative, but because of the possibility that voters inclined toward supporting public schools in general would be more likely to stay home on Election Day.
After a teacher walkout in Arizona in the spring, mirroring similar moves in other states, hopes were high that the new revenue stream generated by the Invest in Ed initiative would alleviate low teacher salaries and underfunded classrooms. A poll showed 78% of respondents in the state supported the teachers' corresponding #redfored movement.
This recent Arizona ruling, which came when legislative budget analysts reported that the immediate impact of the omission around indexing would result in a hit to many taxpayers earning less than $250,000, is seen as a boon for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which fought to block the initiative. The group argued that raising income taxes on the wealthiest Arizonans would be a drag on the state economy and potentially drive higher-income Arizonans out of the state.
Increases in funding, however, do not always correlate to increased quality of education, especially for the highest-need students. And even though the public shows increasing support for teachers and thinks they don't earn enough money, ongoing teacher strikes can test the patience of many parents, even those who, overall, support teachers. At the end of the day, school leaders don't have much control over the overall budget landscape, but what they can do to strive use the funds that they do have as purposefully as possible, addressing the day-to-day working conditions that teachers value.