Called by the Associated Press Thursday, Arizona's Proposition 208, also known as the Invest in Education Act, has passed. This proposition will place a 3.5% tax surcharge on any income above $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for couples.
Many Arizonans believe this initiative is the first step in improving and prioritizing K-12 education. But for others, this new tax increase is frightening.
This money will then be distributed to teacher and school staff salaries, mentoring and retention programs, career and technical education programs, and the Arizona Teachers Academy, an organization that offers scholarships and support to future Arizona teachers.
The city of Mesa contains the largest school district in the state, Mesa Public Schools (MPS), and residents in favor of Proposition 208 believe this initiative will help combat the teacher shortage that has plagued Arizona.
"Everyone has had a teacher that positively impacted their life," said Riley Rambo, 20, a first-time voter, former MPS student, and current member of the workforce. "The 'Red for Ed' movement really showed us how underappreciated teachers are and I am totally voting for anything that will improve teacher pay and bring more people to the profession."
Those still in school have been the most impacted by the state's teacher shortage and lack of funding. MPS senior Quincey Strobel has seen firsthand the hardships teachers face.
"The reason why I supported Prop. 208 is because every day at school I see teachers struggling," said Strobel. "I know multiple teachers with two jobs and I have even been in classrooms with 40-plus students. It's all really upsetting."
While there is a large sum of Arizonans in favor of this proposition, about 48% of voters are opposed, believing Proposition 208 is full of false promises and will result in turmoil for small business owners.
"Arizona's small business owners have sacrificed a lot this year. They have fought through the challenges of COVID-19, working hard to keep their doors open and protect the health and safety of their employees and their customers. They deserve our thanks, not a massive tax increase," said Gov. Doug Ducey in a sponsored statement for Arizonans for Strong Leadership, a PAC against 208.
MPS teacher, Gail Ginther, has been an educator for 23 years and voted against the proposition, believing that this money is not enough to solve all the problems surrounding Arizona education.
"I voted no on Prop. 208, I think it will harm small business," said Ginther. "In Arizona, education is never prioritized and teacher salary is always the last to be increased. Even if some of the money goes to us, it probably won't make that much of a difference."
From small business owners struggling from the impacts of COVID-19, teachers fighting for better pay with movements like Red for Ed, and the Arizona government constantly promising improvements for K-12 education, voters and teachers like Ms. Ginther have every right to be skeptical about initiatives like Prop. 208.
But those behind 208 are positive that this new tax revenue will strengthen Arizona schools, resulting in a strengthening economy.
Rebecca Gau, executive director of Stand for Children Arizona, the organization supporting Prop. 208, fully believes in this correlation.
"When students are successful, the economy is boosted. Career readiness and vocational education are essential. Businesses want to operate and relocate to areas with good schools, graduating qualified students, and skilled workers," said Gau in a statement for Stand for Children Arizona.