AEA president hopes Prop 208 funding creates competitive teacher pool
PHOENIX — Now that Proposition 208 has passed, many Arizonans are wondering how the funding will be allocated.
Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, joined KTAR 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News Friday to break down how the new revenue will help Arizona’s schools and educators.
“I think what we’ve got to focus on is that we have about 1700 classrooms, that’s about 40,000 students, that don’t have a qualified certified teacher in them,” Thomas said.
“I mean someone that hasn’t graduated college or someone that’s teaching out of their subject. … We have 1,700 classrooms like that.”
Proposition 208 imposes a 3.5% tax surcharge on those with an annual income exceeding $250,000 for single filers and $500,000 for couples to fund education in Arizona.
By increasing teacher salaries through this new revenue, Thomas hopes it will create a competitive salary environment that will draw teachers who have left to teach in other states back to Arizona.
“We should see that number begin to go down and when that number approaches zero, we know that we have at least that one issue taken care of,” Thomas said. “This was targeted funding around our employees, in particular our classroom employees.”
Thomas added that the education association is working to establish a mentoring program for veteran teachers to pair up with a first through third year teacher and foster their career growth.
A portion of the funds will also be allocated to non-administrative certificated professionals such as social workers and guidance counselors as well as non-administrative school staff including classroom aides and school bus drivers.
Arizona has some of the largest class sizes in the nation, something else Thomas would like to see decrease with the extra funds.
“I think that we need to watch this come in, hold the legislature and gov accountable to make sure that they are appropriating the funding,” Thomas said.
“They’re collecting the revenue and getting it to our districts, and then the local teacher associations will make sure the districts are putting it where it goes.”
Thomas says Arizona students will also benefit directly. Students looking to earn college credit in high school will have more opportunities offered.
Career in technical education courses are expected to be created to help students graduate job ready with a professional skill set, according to Thomas.
“We listened to the voters and we listened to in particular parents and educators to tell us what are the most critical needs in and around our classrooms that we need to support,” Thomas said. “We created Invest in Ed around that and the voters passed it.”
Jaime Molera, chairman of the No on Proposition 208 campaign, issued the following statement Friday:
“We’re disappointed in the outcome of our campaign, but we’re incredibly proud of our effort and the coalition we assembled. Everyone who gave us their time and talent or who made a financial contribution did so because they were motivated by a strong belief in doing what’s right for Arizona’s teachers, students, and job creators.
“This is a setback, but we still believe Arizona’s best days are ahead. So, it’s back to work to continue to seek ways to support Arizona’s education system across the continuum in a way that strengthens our economy.”