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Phoenix-Area School Bond, Override Elections A Bellwether For K-12 Advocates

Published: Monday, November 4, 2019 - 12:08pm

The outcome of dozens of elections held by Maricopa County school districts may be a bellwether for education advocates that want voters to approve more K-12 funding in 2020.

Save Our Schools Arizona, a grassroots organization that successfully blocked a universal expansion of Arizona’s school voucher program, is one of several organizations mulling options for a K-12 funding ballot measure.

How that question would be posed is up for debate.

Groups behind the Invest In Ed initiative, which was thrown from the 2018 ballot by the Arizona Supreme Court, are considering a hybrid proposal that would boost revenue from income and sales taxes, according to the Yellow Sheet Report. The Helios Foundation has drafted a proposal that combines revenue from sales taxes and higher property taxes by way of a statewide special taxing district.

Dawn Penich Thacker, a spokeswoman for SOS Arizona, said the votes on Tuesday, though only in Maricopa County, will be an indicator of the level of public support for boosting K-12 education funding. 

Particularly, SOS Arizona is keeping an eye on the West Valley, an area ripe, in theory, for support. 

Penich Thacker said neighborhoods in school districts like Dysart Unified, Deer Valley Unified and Gilbert Unified have grown with new subdivisions, and new young families that should be prone vote in elections that would boost funding for schools their children are likely to attend – if they turn out to vote, that is.

“There’s an interesting mix of young families who definitely would benefit from more funds in their kids schools but have a lower turnout record,” Penich Thacker said. “And then we have those older communities that absolutely turned in their ballot, but we’re afraid they might be a little less interested in increasing education funding.”

Votes against bonds or overrides in those districts would be concerning for groups like Save Our Schools Arizona. 

“It would be a sign that we need to work a lot harder to get people to understand that our public schools are starving,” she said. “They’ve been underfunded for 11 years now, and that if we don’t get some additional dollars into these classrooms, our kids, our economy, are not going to be able to compete, because every state around us is paying more and spending more education.”

Breaking Down The Basics Of School Bonds And Overrides

Politics Education