Arizona Education Association

Advocate Fall 2012

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THIS IS AEA A look at the Association's significant role in increasing and protecting public education funding in Arizona AEA–Champion of Funding for Arizona Schools This year the Arizona Education Association (AEA) is celebrating 120 years of advocating for quality public education. This story is part of a series of articles the AEA Advocate has featured commemorating the Association's 120th anniversary. Since its founding in 1892, AEA has AEA Retired member Tom Shaffer contributed to this story. advocated for Arizona's public schools. In that 120 year time, adequate and equitable public education funding has always been a primary goal for the Association. AEA knows that quality teaching and high learning standards need stable financial support. The Association has a long history of advocating for state tax policies that are sustainable, research-informed, and aligned with long-term economic strength. In the 1930s, the Great Depression severely hurt Arizona schools. The legislature reduced per pupil spending from $25 to $20 per child. In 1936 AEA led a petition drive to raise per-pupil spending to $40 for elementary and $60 for high school. After a massive petition-gathering effort and campaign to inform the public of the proposal, the initiative failed to make the ballot after an injunction was filed against it on the grounds that the petitions submitted did not in all particulars conform to the statutes governing the use of the initiative. AEA spoke up again for budget legislation to improve public schools in 1940. This time all 22,000 petition signatures (10,000 over what was needed) were accepted and the initiative moved forward for a vote in the November election. AEA financed a huge statewide organizing campaign to inform voters and urge their support of the measure by collecting $5 donations from members. The initiative passed and raised per-pupil spending to $65 for elementary and $95 for high school. After it passed by a sizable margin, opponents immediately filed a lawsuit asking that the results of the election be set aside on the grounds that the presentation of the petitions was irregular. The matter finally came to the Arizona Supreme Court, where two years after passage of the bill, a decision was made in favor of the measure and it became law. A decade later, AEA leaders felt that a more equitable method of allocating funds across the state was needed. Legislation was proposed to create an "equalization fund" that would set aside $20 per student and then be distributed to the state's most needy districts based on formula. Failing to get the measure approved through the legislature, AEA took to gathering signatures again to put it to a vote before the public. More than 52,339 signatures were gathered, the most ever filed in Arizona at that time. Having passed an initiative before, AEA moved confidently forward in educating the public on the school equalization tax. The campaign was well on its way to another victory until one week before the General Election when the opposition placed ads in all the statewide newspapers reporting the alleged salaries of every teacher and school administrator in Arizona. The ad referred to the AEA measure as a gigantic scheme to raise the already adequate salaries of the state's teachers. Despite all of the AEA's hard work to pass the measure, it failed at the ballot due to this last- minute attack. 16 Fall 2012 ❘ AEA Advocate

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