Arizona’s Red for Ed movement has officially entered a new phase as a fundraising initiative on the November general election ballot. The grassroots group, which brought tens of thousands protesting educators to the state capitol and closed hundreds of schools for six days in April, collected 270,000 signatures to get a proposition to increase education funding on the November ballot.
The initiative, known as "Invest in Ed," hopes to add $690 million to the state’s education budget by raising taxes on Arizona’s wealthiest residents.
Invest In Ed educators unloaded a truckload of boxes filled with signed petitions outside of the Capitol building Thursday. The petitions were delivered to the secretary of state’s office, which will count and verify the collected signatures. A minimum of 150,000 certified signatures is required for an initiative to be put on the ballot.
Joe Thomas, Arizona Education Association president, says the money raised will go directly to the classrooms, with 60 percent of the new money funding teacher salaries and the remaining 40 percent going to support staff and school programs such as all-day kindergarten.
The proposal would ask voters to decide to double the income tax rates on people who earn $250,000 per year as a single person or $500,000 per year as a married couple.
Thomas says using the wealthiest Arizonans as the funding source was recommended after research and polls.
“What the voters told us through years of research, online polling, surveys, direct phone calls, one-on-one, one-on-three conversations, is the money needs to go as close to the classroom as possible, and the revenue stream that tested the highest was the revenue stream that we adopted, which is an income tax,” Thomas said.
Supporters say Invest in Ed is a dedicated source of funding that would generate $690 million for Arizona's school, unlike a budget proposed by Gov. Doug Ducey.
[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona schools in crisis]
The governor’s plan allotted money for Arizona teachers to receive an average salary increase of 20 percent by the year 2020, but not through a dedicated funding source. The state Legislature also released its own budget proposal, similar to the governor's plan but it was largely rejected by protesting educators.
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