'Invest in Ed' submits ballot initiative to invest more in Arizona public education
PHOENIX - Leaders of a controversial initiative turned in thousands of signatures hoping to be put on the upcoming ballot.
Invest in Ed's goal, if approved, would invest more than $900 million a year for Arizona's public K-12 schools.
"It's going to be transformational for Arizona schools," said David Lujan, the Director for the Arizona Center for Economic Progress. "I think the fact that we were able to get more than 430,000 signatures in the course of a few months during a COVID pandemic, that's incredible."
The group turned in those signatures hoping for a spot on the November ballot.
"Particularly during the COVID pandemic, we are seeing how important our public schools are to our economy and investing in our schools, particularly when we are currently at the bottom in the country for funding, this will be a giant boost for businesses and for our economy," Lujan said.
If approved, the act will add an income surcharge only to the wealthiest earners in the state.
"The money will go directly to Arizona's public schools and it goes to increase teacher salaries and also the other support staff that are in classrooms, so classroom aides, school nurses, counselors. It is also used for career and technical educating programs," Lujan said.
Similar measures have been put on the ballot in the past, and most recently was in 2018.
Those against the new initiative like former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Jaime Molera said in a statement:
"A terribly damaging tax increase could be headed to the fall ballot. If this initiative were to pass, the highest income tax rate would increase by a whopping 78 percent, dramatically undermining Arizona's ability to bounce back strongly from the negative economic effects of this pandemic."
But Invest in Ed says that's not the case.
"It's a 3.5 percent surcharge on the wealthiest Arizonans in the top 1 percent. It will still make our tax code one of the fairest in the country. It's no higher rates than most of the rest of the country," Lujan said.
The Secretary of State's office now has 20 days to confirm all those signatures. If approved, it will be on the November ballot.