Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Arizona Voters Pass Proposition 100. Arizona has been a center of controversy lately, with the tightening of immigration and the repeal of bilingual education, but on Tuesday, the state's voters approved a temporary sales tax increase to avoid cuts to education and human services. Arizona is facing about $862 million in proposed budget cuts to education, social services and public safety had the measure not passed. The temporary sales tax increase--a one percentage point increase from 5.6% to 6.6% for the next three years--will generate an estimated $918 million in its first year. The projected margin of victory on the ballot question was 64% to 36%.

Kudos to Arizona voters for thinking "inside the ballot box" and getting this done for the students in Arizona. Minnesota voters don't have access to this type of revenue-raising tool, making one wonder what would happen if they did. I'm not big fan of the initiative/referendum process, but the uneven K-12 funding over the past few decades that has led to both adequacy and equity problems has me re-thinking my position.

Robin Hood! Saw Robin Hood last weekend (Action packed Pee-Wee!--name the movie where that line appeared, but I digress) and I highly recommend it. Nothing like a little medieval sword play to get one's blood going a bit. What made me chuckle though (and it only made me chuckle) is that our organization used to be viewed as the "Robin Hood" of education funding. Outside of my uncanny resemblance to Russell Crowe, it's hard to believe that we were once considered that and that kind of gave me pause. There is still an equity issue in this state and we have to continue to pursue policies that close the funding and opportunity gaps and make certain that every student in Minnesota has access to the high-quality education that is going to be necessary to compete in the 21st century global economy.

The arrows we will use will be rhetorical ones and we have to be careful about who we aim at. One of the problems we have had over the years is that we are sometimes less than circumspect in our language. We need to be indignant. There's no excuse for the inequities in property tax effort and referendum revenue levels that exist due to the erosion of the value of equalization. Further, the failure of the general education amount to reflect inflationary pressures has caused a huge problem for those districts who can't pass a referendum. We need to remain on the two-track strategy of ensuring the basic funding levels of education are sufficient to meet the needs of an ever-changing student body and that property tax effort on referendum levies district-to-district on a per dollar basis are much more equitable than they are currently.

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