Arizona Interfaith Network Leverages Hundreds of Millions of Dollars for Arizona Schools in Passage of Prop 208

Through an intense mobilization campaign that engaged voters across the state, Valley Interfaith Project, with Pima County Interfaith, Northern Arizona Interfaith Council and a coalition of education allies, leveraged passage of Prop 208 which will restore millions of dollars to K-12 education funding.

[Excerpts from Jewish News below]

“Quality education is at the core of who the Jewish people are and how we have survived for thousands of years,” said Rabbi John Linder of Temple Solel, a member of the Arizona Interfaith Network Clergy Caucus. “And we look at quality education as reflecting the common good of the community.”

AIN was among five organizations that worked for the last four years to pass the Invest in Ed initiative. Other coalition organizations include the Arizona Center for Economic Progress, the Arizona Education Association, Children’s Action Alliance and Stand for Children.

Arizona has among the lowest spending per student on K-12 education in the country, and the state cut funding further during the 2008 recession. Proponents argue that over a decade later, it’s time for the state to restore what was lost.

“It’s doing the right thing, because it’s getting us closer ... to that budget we had before they cut everything,” said Kim Klett, Holocaust literature and AP English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa. She is also on the board of directors of Phoenix Holocaust Association. “They took so much and it was never restored, and so it’s going to be able to restore a lot of those things that we had before.”

Pervasive spending cuts and low education funding have led teachers like Klett to spend their own money or hold fundraisers to purchase school supplies, such as a set of books for her classroom.

“We put in a lot of hours outside of our school day, and I just feel like fundraising for materials that you need in your classroom should not be one of those other things that we have to do,” Klett said, “and yet we do it all the time.”

To Linder, the Invest in Ed initiative represents a welcome change for education funding in Arizona.

“Things that we value, we invest in,” Linder said. “And the reality in Arizona is that our state has simply failed to keep up with basic needs and providing a competitive livelihood for teachers and keeping class sizes manageable.”

Proposition 208 creates a new revenue stream for Arizona public schools by imposing an income tax increase of 3.5% on individuals earning more than $250,000 and married couples earning more than $500,000.

...

“Our public system is teetering because teachers can’t afford to stay in the teaching field or they choose to go to another state because they’re simply not valued here, and there are thousands of classrooms without a qualified teacher,” Linder said. “That should not be acceptable to the state of Arizona.”

“[Prop 208] is completely compatible with what we should be working for as Jews and a community at large,” Linder said. “I think that was reflected in the pretty clear vote for this proposition.”

Invest in Education Initiative Passes, Injects New Funds into Arizona SchoolsJewish News [pdf]

Historic Win as Arizona Voters Say Yes to Propostion 8, Invest in Education