Beyond Prop 123

Author: Janice Palmer, Vice President and Director of Policy, Helios Education Foundation

August 12, 2016

The long-term prosperity of Arizona and its residents depends on a quality education system that effectively prepares its students for success in college, career and life.  Arizona has one of the largest and fastest growing Latino student populations in the nation, yet our Latino students trail their state and national peers in academic performance and degree completion.  Through our Arizona Latino Student Success Initiative, Helios is committed to improving quality, access and achievement across the birth-postsecondary education continuum, ultimately leading to more Arizona students, and specifically more Latino students, completing two- and four-year degrees. 

However, these goals will not be realized without changing the conversation from education being viewed as an expense instead of an investment in our future. 

Just a few months ago, Arizonans voted to settle a five-year inflationary lawsuit and provided K-12 schools with $3.5 billion over the next 10 years. It was an issue that engaged passionate discussion on education being a priority and sent a clear message that voters care about how our education system is funded. As we stated during the Prop. 123 campaign, these resources were an important first step, yet we must continue to focus on ensuring we have an appropriate, equitable and sustainable funding system, from birth through postsecondary education.

While we continue to work on next steps, it’s important to know where we stand. In June, the US Census Bureau’s Educational Finance Branch released Public Education Finances: 2014 that looks at public elementary and secondary school systems finances. While Arizona consistently spends less per pupil than other states across the country and is ranked overall 49th out of 51 states and the District of Columbia, the real story is from where the sources of funding are received. What we see is that Arizona receives 13.3% of its total revenues from federal sources, 38.4% from state sources and 48.3% from local sources. Put another way, compared to other states in the nation, Arizona ranks 16th in federal funding, 49th in state funding and 31st in local funding.

Our local effort is about average when compared to what other states’ local taxpayers invest and we receive more in federal funding than most states. What this also shows is that we have work to do in our state to invest in a quality education system. We must work together to ensure the state provides all students with access to a high-quality education, regardless of their zip code. 

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