Arizona Prop. 208 to raise teacher salaries ahead in early returns

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Republic reporters Lily Altavena and Richard Ruelas on Nov. 4, 2020, discuss Proposition 208, the education tax measure born out of the #RedForEd movement.

Arizona Republic

Election results on Wednesday showed Proposition 208, a bid to raise teacher salaries by increasing taxes on the state’s highest earners, in the lead.

The measure, also known as the Invest in Education Act, would raise revenue primarily for educator salaries by adding a 3.5% tax surcharge on taxable income over $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for couples. A small fraction of taxpayers would be affected. 

Proposition 208’s leaders at a news conference Tuesday night said they believed the measure would pass and remained confident into Wednesday. 

“Voters agree that strong schools mean a strong economy,” Rebecca Gau, executive director of Stand For Children, the organization supporting Proposition 208, said. 

Proposition 208 has led in recent polls, garnering support, particularly among Democrats, despite the fierce campaign being waged against the measure.

The measure was born out of the #RedForEd movement in 2018, when educators protesting low salaries and classroom funding repeatedly cut since the Great Recession pledged to “Remember in November.” 

It’s garnered more support among Democrats and independents, with less support from Republicans. Gov. Doug Ducey opposes the tax increase, while state Schools Superintendent Kathy Hoffman has voiced her support.

Joe Thomas, the president of the Arizona Education Association, took a shot at the state’s governor and lawmakers. 

“Voters will have sealed the deal on something that no legislator has had the courage to do, no governor has had the courage to do,” he said. 

Where would Invest in Ed funding go? 

If the measure holds its lead, educators likely would need to wait awhile to see a difference in their paychecks. David Lujan, one of the authors of the measure, said the money likely would start to flow to salaries in the spring of 2022. 

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee, a third-party state entity that analyzes the financial impact of ballot propositions, estimates that Proposition 208 would raise $827 million for education, about $100 million less than Invest in Ed’s initial estimate.

The measure would send the money to the following areas: 

  • 50% of the money would go to hiring and raising the salaries of teachers and other certified employees, such as counselors and nurses. 
  • 25% would go to hiring and increasing the salaries of student support staff, including classroom aides and bus drivers.
  • 12% would go to career and technical education programs. 
  • 10% would go to programs dedicated to retaining and mentoring teachers. 
  • 3% would go to scholarships for the Arizona Teachers Academy, which waives college tuition for teachers-in-training who commit to work in Arizona schools after graduation.

Reach the reporter at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @LilyAlta.

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