In a special election coming up on May 17, Arizona voters will make a decision on Proposition 123, which discusses funding for K-12 schools in the state.
The proposition plans to amend the Arizona Constitution by permanently increasing annual distributions from state trust lands to fund education.
This increase in distribution would give $3.5 billion to public and charter schools over a 10-year period. The current distribution from state trust lands to K-12 schools is 2.5 percent. If passed, Proposition 123 would raise distribution to 6.9 percent. Accepting this proposition would not cause state taxes to increase.
Procedures created by this proposition would adjust education spending based on inflation. If the growth of sales tax and employment are under 2 percent, then inflation adjustments may be suspended for the next fiscal year.
Yearly spending cost per student is projected to rise from $3,426 to $3,600 because of a separate piece of legislation passed and signed by Gov. Doug Ducey in 2015. This separate piece of legislation will only take effect if Proposition 123 is passed.
Supporters of the proposition include Ducey, who believes that funds allocated for K-12 schools through state trust lands should be increased. The main argument is that there is money available to spend and schools would improve throughout the next ten years without raising taxes.
Those in opposition to the proposition acknowledge that it would help schools in the present, but that it does not consider future funding.
The opposing argument says the state trust lands are an investment that sees a profitable return for the state yearly and that the overuse of those funds could leave the land trust with significantly less. The opposition to the proposition would rather see an increase in education funding come from the general fund.
Morgan Abraham, a Tucson realtor, said this new legislation brings great issues for future education funding.
“Prop 123 is taking money from future Arizona students and spending it now," Abraham said. "In ten years when most of Arizona’s current college students’ kids will be going to school, we're not going to have as much money in the trust."
Spokesman Christian Palmer said the increase in funds used would not create an issue for future generations.
“The state land trust is currently valued at more than $5 billion, while the state's remaining unsold trust lands are worth approximately $70 billion," Palmer said. "This context shows that Prop 123's increased use of the state land trust for a limited period of 10 years does not jeopardize the health of the fund.”
Further, Palmer says that spending from the funds now would help alleviate the state's teacher retention crisis.
“Arizona has a crisis in education and it has a crisis in teachers' leaving," Palmer said. "The money gained from Prop 123 would help with teacher vacancies and in classroom spending.”
Alex Gossard, a musical theater sophomore, said spending should not be a priority for the Arizona government.
“I would vote no," Gossard said. "I feel like we should be more concerned about reform than we are spending.”
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