Promise Kept on Ending Tax, Now What about Education?

Posted on: June 7, 2013

The article below was originally published at

As some supporters of the 1-cent sales tax passed in 2010 and opponents of its permanence celebrated its recent expiration, it was hard for many of us to ignore the dark cloud of uncertainty that now engulfs Arizona education.

Seven months ago, those who advocated hard, and often unfairly, for the sales tax’s demise promised to prioritize education and have a plan before the tax sunset. Yet, we sit here today without a plan to restore any meaningful amount of the substantial cuts made to education over the past three years -- or to address the near billion dollar shortfall ahead.

Promises made, promises kept?  We guess that depends on where you sit.  If you are a student in a classroom, or a parent of one, or even a growing business that is banking on a skilled workforce in the future, it’s highly likely that you’ve been snubbed. 

Last month, Helios Education Foundation partnered with NBC News to bring Education Nation to Phoenix. There were several days where national and local attention was focused on education in our state. Leaders from education, government and business all professed that Arizona’s children deserve not only the best education system in the nation, but one of world-class excellence. 

With the loss of $900 million in annual sales-tax revenue and nearly $540 million in tax cuts to purportedly fuel job growth underway— both of which impact education — where will the resources to achieve world-class excellence come from? The budget being considered by the Legislature includes more than $170 million in education funding to support Common Core implementation, teacher professional development, technology enhancements and performance incentives. 

It doesn’t even come close to fixing the gaping hole that exists. 

We are often perplexed by Arizona leaders who seem unfazed by our state’s consistent ranking at the bottom for per-pupil spending and crowning as the nation’s leader in cuts to education during the economic downturn. It’s even more mind-numbing when there is talk about creating a vibrant Arizona with a skilled, highly educated workforce out of a system that consistently receives superficial investment.

In our statewide work, we encounter so many people who truly care about the future of our state, our education system and our children.  We are fortunate to partner with many organizations that share our commitment to advancing the academic preparedness of our students.

That includes bar-raising measures such as Arizona’s Common Core Standards and fostering a high expectations culture that encourages every student to pursue a postsecondary certificate or degree. It is this work, these people and these organizations that motivate us to believe in Arizona’s future and our collective ability to prepare our children for college and a career in a global economy. 

That being said, kudos to our leaders for celebrating kept promises. Now, what about the promises to Arizona’s children about delivering a world-class education?

Vince Roig is founding chairman and Paul Luna is president and CEO of Helios Education Foundation.


Category: Foundation Feature

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