Educators Collect Petition Signatures To Get Invest In Education Act On Ballot

Published: Saturday, May 19, 2018 - 1:17pm
Updated: Saturday, May 19, 2018 - 1:20pm
(Photo by Bridget Dowd - KJZZ)
Teachers and advocates for more education funding set up booths across the Valley Saturday. They were collecting signatures to get the Invest in Education Act on the ballot in November.

Teachers and advocates for more education funding set up booths across the Valley Saturday.  They were collecting signatures to get the Invest in Education Act on the ballot in November.

If passed, the measure would raise taxes on Arizonans making more than $250,000 per year to raise money for education.

Jay Barbuto teaches at Edison Elementary School and was stationed at Phoenix Public Market, gathering signatures on Saturday. He said while teaching in a Title I school, he’s experienced the consequences of a lack of funding firsthand.

"I’m grateful to our district that they provide the novels that we read in seventh and eighth grade, but at the same time, they don’t provide us any curriculum to go with it,” Barbuto said. “It’s not really their fault. It’s because they’re not getting enough money. We don’t have enough money to do that.”

Barbuto said schools are becoming dated and not institutions that students are proud to walk into every day. He said he and his fellow educators have been heavily involved in the #RedForEd movement.

"I joke with my friends that my whole laundry is all red,” he said. “I've worn red every day for the past — I feel like three months. But we participated in the walkouts, the walk-ins before that. … We’ve done it all. We’ve been out collecting signatures here for the past three weekends now. So we’re all-in.”

Barbuto added that he feels like advocating for education funding is almost like a second job now. He and a friend have even started hosting a #RedForEd podcast.

Organizers have until July 5 to gather more than 150,000 verified petition signatures. However, not everyone is on board with the initiative. In fact, educators are facing strong opposition from the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Glenn Hamer is president and CEO of the chamber. He said the measure would jeopardize Arizona’s economic success.

"It’s an initiative that would create very high individual income tax rates for small businesses and successful individuals,” Hamer said. “It would make us the fifth-highest state in the country when it comes to individual income taxes, including the taxes that would be levied on small businesses.”

Hamer said resources already exist to fund Arizona’s education needs, referring to recent legislation promising a 20 percent increase in teacher pay by 2020.

“We are able to do that because our economy is doing well,” Hamer said. “If through one of these types of initiatives it happens to cause the Arizona economy to go into recession, that would be the greatest threat to teacher pay and other types of investments in education that we need to make as a state.”

Crystal Famania is another Arizona teacher who went out to gather signatures. She said there’s a noticeable need for more resources and supplies in Valley classrooms.

“I know a lot of teachers are spending an incredible amount of money on resources every year filling in these gaps, buying things like pencils, paper, erasers for the students,” Famania said. “Sometimes we’re buying curriculum, just what they’re learning in general — purchasing it all ourselves.”

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