In a few months the Arizona
residents will have the opportunity to vote on Proposition 208, a measure funded by out of state labor unions and special interest groups to
impose a $1 Billion income tax increase on small businesses and entrepreneurs
in the middle of a pandemic. Not surprisingly, employers around the state
are speaking out against the measure, as Prop 208 would kill thousands of jobs, punish small
business owners and destroy our fragile economic recovery.
While the economic impacts may be devastating, what may be
more infuriating to Arizona families is that Prop 208 does NOTHING to assist
frustrated parents and students currently dealing with Covid-19 school closures and disrupted
learning schedules. The revenue
generated from this 78% tax increase would come with little accountability or
oversight, leaving it up to school districts and administrators to spend the
money how they see fit.
Crafted to Benefit Unions and Provide Pay Raises to Administrators
The backers of this massive tax increase do
not care about families or small businesses in Arizona. If they did, they would not have crafted a
measure full of loopholes that allow funding to be siphoned off by district
administrators and away from teachers and classrooms. The initiative redefines teacher to include
non-classroom administrative staff and changes existing law so that money is no
longer earmarked for teachers and classroom spending.
Of the $1 Billion anticipated to be collected
if Prop 208 passes, not one dime will support parents as they battle to
educate their children, not one dime is guaranteed to support teachers,
and not one dime addresses improvements needed to overcome current environmental
Sadly, this lack of funding accountability in
Prop 208 is by design. The backers of this measure know most people support
K-12 and want to see improvements in the system. They are hoping that voters will
not take a closer look at the fine print.
will Derail AZ’s Economic Recovery by Punishing Job Creators and Small
According to the Tax
Foundation, Prop 208 would give Arizona
one of the highest small business tax rates in the country. Under
Prop 208, AZ small businesses will be taxed at a top rate of 8 percent (a 78
percent increase), giving us a higher income tax rate than Nevada, Utah,
Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. Employers and entrepreneurs will flee to these
lower tax states, turning the Grand Canyon State into the
mini-California of the Southwest.
Sadly, the small businesses who have survived
so far are just starting to dig themselves out of the wreckage of the Covid-19
shutdown. It is undeniable that small businesses were hit hardest by the
economic downturn, as most mom and pop shops were forced to close while big
corporations (who are exempt from this tax increase) were allowed
to stay open. Now just as they are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,
out-of-state labor unions and special interest groups want to hammer them with
a massive tax hike at the ballot. They do not deserve this treatment.
Tone Deaf Measure Ignores Parents and Children
in Desperate Need for Help
A cursory reading of Prop 208 shows that the
backers of this tone-deaf initiative care little about Arizona families. Currently the biggest crisis facing parents
and students are the district-wide school closures and substandard
online/distant learning conditions that have been forced upon them. They need
help, yet the “solution” being offered up by the unions and special interest groups bankrolling this initiative is to dump more
money into the system with no strings attached.
The only worthwhile investment in K-12 that should be considered right now is to
provide direct aid to families to explore alternative educational opportunities
and to help parents escape dysfunctional learning environments that are
inflicting permanent damage on their kids.
Instead, Prop 208 soaks hardworking Arizona taxpayers with a massive tax
hike that will likely result in nothing more than pay raises for school administrators
in the middle of a pandemic.
Arizona voters should not be fooled – Prop 208 is bad for families, businesses,
and our education system!
All across the country, K-12
educators and staff are holding
families hostage and threatening to strike (again) if schools open
up in the Fall for kids to learn in person.
They are claiming that it is not safe enough to teach, despite the fact
that many districts
are opening up to offer in person daycare services and are
charging for the service. Parents and students that need an in-person learning
option have become political pawns in the teacher union chess game to further their
If the unions and school shutdown
lobby think they are winning the debate, they are sorely mistaken. With
families getting their first glimpse of substandard online classroom
instruction, parents are already sprinting out of their district school and opting
for better alternatives. In states such
as Arizona, where school choice is popular and plentiful, parents easily have
As consumers, we are well
accustomed to the luxuries of customization and flexibility. In fact, we have come to expect it in almost
every realm of goods and services. Yet
when it comes to education parents don’t realize they have a right to demand
these features for their children.
Families should have a
market of options in which they consider the unique aptitude, learning style
and interests of their child. Organizations and school choice advocates have
been working for years to advance innovation and diversity in education and to
question the top-down system of the status quo. Additional demand from Covid-19 and
opportunistic teacher unions is likely to expedite the revolution of
educational options in Arizona.
Just as it sounds, microschools
are small learning environments between 8 – 10 students that blend
homeschooling with an in-class community environment. In Arizona, this concept has been popularized
by the company Prenda whose goal was to create a learning environment that was
self-guided and fueled by a child’s own enthusiasm for learning. Prenda created
an online platform that has made its model for learning accessible to students across
the state. Even in the most isolated and
economically challenged areas of the state, such as the Apache Reservation, a
microschool has popped up and is serving a small number of tribal
students who would have had no other option but failing district schools.
certainly not a new concept, homeschooling is quickly gaining popularity. Many parents who were thrust into “being the
teacher” at the end of the 2020 school year have discovered they are rather
good at it and are opting this year to take on the role full time. In fact, in Maricopa County the number of
families opting to homeschool their children this Fall has tripled over last
Similar to microschools, parents
are also forming “pandemic
pods” for children in their families and neighborhoods; small
groups of kids taught under either a parent or paid teacher or tutor. This allows families to pool their resources
and share the costs of a more personalized education. Companies from Manhattan to San Francisco
have popped up to facilitate the matching of families with tutors and teachers;
a similar model that already exists with nanny agencies. This model has raised
concerns over equity – how do children in families with limited resources and
means ensure they still receive a quality education?
Right now, parents are figuring
all this out on their own. Policymakers
Empowerment Scholarship Accounts
Arizona already has a vehicle set
up for “backpack funding,” a finance system for education that follows the
student no matter what educational option they choose. Currently Empowerment Scholarship Accounts
are only open to certain qualifying students – such as for children with
disabilities, in the bounds of schools rated a ‘D’ or ‘F’, children of military
persons or tribal children.
The legislature should expand this
program for the COVID-19 pandemic. Doing
so would allow all families struggling with the difficult educational
choices right now to access needed funds to tailor an education best for their
child in this chaotic environment. This
could be done at a fraction of the cost of traditional district school funding.
These models are the tip of the
iceberg. As families, educators and
policymakers navigate what education looks like during the current pandemic;
this is an even greater opportunity to explore how to revamp archaic
school finance systems, outdated education models, and make parents
expert consumers of educational options.