The Legislature passed an $11.8 billion ‘skinny’ contingency budget and has adjourned until April 13. There are both good and not so good included in the details of what was passed.
Public education will be receiving funding to support all staff throughout school closures. This will allow our teachers to work on lesson plans for online learning and to prepare packets for those without access to the internet. Bus drivers will deliver meals to designated areas and staff will prepare materials for students at home. Other departments will work from home.
The budget also includes the remaining 5% for teachers’ salaries as promised to fulfill the Governor’s 20 by 20 agreement with educators. Unfortunately, it does not include any additional funding for classified staff (secretaries, teachers’ aides, bus drivers, etc). Districts will be forced to use funds from other budgeted needs to offer support staff any wage increases.
The budget also does not include the full restoration of the district additional assistance funds that were cut during the recession. These funds would go for school supplies, resources and much more. Schools continue to be funded at the 2008 level which puts our students at a disadvantage in attaining a quality public education.
The Invest In Ed Initiative is an attempt to provide critical funding for our public schools. The 3.5% surcharge on taxable income of $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for a couple would provide $940 million dollars a year. 50% would go to teacher salaries, 25% to support staff salaries, 10% for mentoring, 10% for CTE classes, and other school needs.
When petitions were launched on February 17th in Phoenix and February 29th in Tucson, educators and their coalition partners were fast out the gate collecting signatures. The campaign was going extremely well before the coronavirus impacted so much of our daily lives. Unfortunately, due to the lack of opportunity to collect signatures, the campaign will need to assess how to proceed when conditions improve. For now paid circulators are going door to door and taking precautions to protect everyone’s health. AEA is not recommending for members to take any risk in trying to continue to attain signatures at this time.
We want to thank all those who were circulating petitions, have signed a petition or have donated to the cause. Tucson residents have always supported public education.