The Truth About 301

By John Harris

@IH8PD

Many in the education field praised the passage of Prop 301. Legislators lauded their own ability to funnel “more money” into K12 education. Teachers, at least reluctantly, rejoiced the passage because it helped to guarantee that the funding given back to them would continue for the next 20 years.

After speaking with several members of our Arizona legislature, I wanted to find out where the money from Prop 301 actually goes. According to the AZ Treasury Office (https://aztreasury.gov/local-govt/revenue-distributions/prop-301/), and numbers provided by Representative Paul Mosley, a member of the Banking and Insurance Committee, here is how the money is allocated this year and every year as an autopilot budget program:

With the passage of Proposition 301 in the November 2000 general election, the Department of Revenue started collecting an additional 0.6% sales tax beginning June 1, 2001. Pursuant to Section 42-5029E the monies ($667,458,515.00 for FY2017) are to be distributed as follows:

 

  1. If there are any outstanding School Facilities Revenue Bonds, 1/12 of the annual debt service amount ($64,142,501.00) is transferred to the bond debt service account. This helps districts who have passed bond initiatives pay for physical renovations to their campuses.

 

  1. Twelve percent of the remaining monies ($72,397,921.71) is transferred to the Technology and Research Initiative Fund to be distributed to each of the universities. None of this money goes into K-12 education. It is purely for University technology spending. 
  2. Three percent of the remaining monies (18,099,480.43) is transferred to the Workforce Development Account developed by each of the Community College Districts. This helps community colleges train people in technical fields to pursue employment in a trade.

 

  1. Any community college owned by a qualifying Indian tribe on its own reservation will receive a share equal to the amount each Community College District receives for workforce development. ($769,992.61)

 

  1.  One-twelfth of the amount ($86,280,500.00) for the increased cost of basic state aid due to added school days and associated teacher salary increases (FY 05 – $66,957,200). This is paid if there are any extra instructional days due to various circumstances (flooding, electrical outage, etc.)

 

  1. One-twelfth of the amount ($8,000,000.00) to the Department of Education for school safety and character education (school safety $7,800,000; character education $200,000 per fiscal year). This money goes mainly to SROs on campus to ensure that schools are “safe.” 
  2.  An amount of $7,000,000 for increased accountability in the Department of Education (ED). This amount is not to exceed $7,000,000 per fiscal year. This is to ensure the ED has our compliance with federal law and the IDEA act and FAPE. 
  3.  One-twelfth of the remaining amount ($1,500,000.00) to the Department of Education to fund the failing schools tutoring program. This was a tutoring program designed to help schools who were not meeting AYP under NCLB (now repealed).

  4.  One-twelfth of the amount ($25,000,000) goes back to the State General Fund to offset the cost of the income tax credits allowed by section 43-1072.01. This amount is used to replace money in the general fund that was taken out to give tax credits.


Combined, numbers one through nine total  $283,190,395.75. None of this money goes to the classroom for teachers or for resources used to drive instruction.

 

  1. The remaining monies ($384,268,119.45) will be used for instruction in the following way:
  1. 40% ($153,707,247.78) goes to classroom site fund to be used as performance pay.
  2. 40% ($153,707,247.78) goes to maintenance and operational purposes
  3. 20% ($76,853,623.89) goes to teachers’ base salary

 

In total, teachers have access to 34.5% of the entire amount of the 301 money. 65.5% goes other places like universities, bond payouts, community colleges, the Department of Education, and a tutoring program designed under a set of laws not in place anymore.

A good place to start with improving teacher pay is to use more of the money that the legislature says is being used for K12 public instruction and use less of it on universities, bond repayments, ED oversight, and tutoring programs that are either non-effective or have been dismantled. Prop301 needs to be redesigned, restructured, and sent back to the floor for passage; however, increasing teacher salaries is not the only way for teachers to have the ability to bring home more money.

In my meetings yesterday, I asked both representatives how many obstacles there would be to adding all teachers and Educational Support Personnel (ESPs) to the state insurance plan. Both indicated that it was an elegant solution that would give a majority of teachers an increase in monthly take-home pay without having to raise taxes.

For me, I would bring home an additional $580 a month if I were to choose the lowest-deductible state plan. That would increase my take-home pay by 26% (higher than the ask of AEU’s top demand). It would also give teachers better insurance, lower premiums, lower deductibles, and the ability to have a health savings plan that we can use for any health emergency.

At the end of the day, the goal is to increase the amount of money a teacher brings home per paycheck. How we go about doing it is going to be the sticking point. We cannot just attempt to bullrush the legislature. Many of our elected officials have been put in office by making promises to their constituents who believe they will follow through on those promises.

Like it or not, Arizona is a predominately Republican state (and I don’t mean the legislation; I mean the citizens) who do not want to increase their taxes. Property taxes in Arizona are twice what the taxes are in Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico. Those who live in rural parts of the state are not willing to increase their taxes to help fund teachers or any other social service. Our number one goal should be to funnel more money into public education using the budget that has already been approved. There really is no other way around it.

©2018 IH8PD.com

Top photo borrowed from: https://azednews.com/prop-301-revenues-trend-up-raising-concerns-about-its-2021-expiration/
In-Text photo from: https://medium.com/tson-news-by-three-sonorans/how-ht-sanchez-took-teachers-money-to-hide-tusd-s-15-million-debt-the-reason-prop-301-was-971085d751cf