Arizona Invest In Education Turns In Hundreds Of Thousands Of Signatures

By Mariana Dale, Steve Goldstein, Lauren Gilger
Published: Thursday, July 5, 2018 - 6:06pm
Updated: Friday, July 6, 2018 - 8:49am

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Kids stack up boxes of signatures supporting Invest in Education
Mariana Dale/KJZZ
Maxwell and Amelia James help stack up boxes of signatures supporting the Invest in Education Act in July 2018.

A proposal to increase taxes on Arizona’s wealthiest residents to generate more funding for public education may be headed to the November ballot.

Supporters of the Invest in Education Act needed 150,000 certified signatures. They turned in nearly twice that many — about 270,000 — to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office on Thursday.

“This is an undertaking that is unprecedented,” said Josh Buckley, a Mesa teacher and chair of the Invest in Education campaign.

The Invest in Education petition signature effort began on the heels of the #RedForEd marches, walkouts and walk-ins on behalf of teachers and overall education funding in Arizona.

Thursday was the last day for those trying to get citizen initiatives on the November ballot to turn in hundreds of thousands of signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office, where they will be counted and verified.

The measure proposes increasing income taxes for Arizonans who make more than $250,000 a year. Supporters estimate it would raise $690 million annually for public education in the state.

“The legislatures couldn’t get the job done, and the governor couldn’t get the job done, and so we decided the time was right for us to act,” said Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association. “They’ve had enough chances, and our children are running out of chances.”

"This is an undertaking that is unprecedented."
– Josh Buckley, Mesa teacher and chair of Invest in Education

Two kids, both in red t-shirts, carried a white cardboard box toward a stack almost as tall as they are.

The box contained dozens of signatures from Graham and Greenlee counties that signal Arizonans are willing to consider raising taxes to fund education.

Their mom, Sarah James, is a Mesa music teacher who could benefit if voters say yes.

She’s also an Arizona native who remembers visiting Arizona’s Capitol to drop off signatures to recall then-Gov. Evan Mecham when she was 9 years old, the same age her son is now.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this with my own kids,” James said. “They’ve seen democracy firsthand. They’ve met their reps. My kids know their legislative district. I’m so proud of them.”

Another music teacher, Laura Fox of Gilbert, was also at the Capitol to celebrate the petition submissions.

She said she moved to Arizona in 1989 as a “young idealistic Republican.”

“Why is my party willing to create an unlevel playing field so that there are two classes of students: a group of students who can come from supportive families or wealthy families that can go to private and charter schools, and kids that are disabled or have learning disabilities and are left behind in underfunded public schools,” Fox said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona in December released a report showing some Arizona charter schools have barriers that could exclude students with disabilities, bad grades, or who come from low-income families.

Fox said two of her children went to charter schools.

“One of them did well. It’s not for everybody,” Fox said. “Education is not one size fits all.”

Invest In Ed signs
Mariana Dale/KJZZ
About 200 people wearing the distinctive red shirts of the #RedForEd campaign gathered at the Arizona Captiol Thursday, July 5, 2018 to celebrate turning in an estimated 270,000 signatures in support of a ballot initiative to fund public education.

The Invest in Education Act proposes raising Arizona’s income tax on people who earn more than $250,000 a year.

The tax rate for individuals’ income above $250,000 a year and couples’ above $500,000 a year, would change from 4.54 percent to 8 percent.

The tax rate for individuals’ income above $500,000 a year and couples’ above $1 million a year, would change from 4.54 percent to 9 percent.

Arizona’s income tax rate is tiered. People pay different tax rates on different portions of their income. 

Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas said a year’s worth of polling, surveys and conversations with Arizona voters validates the Invest In Education campaign’s strategy.

“We’re listening to the voters, the voters told us what to do,” Thomas said. “We have to come up with a solution that works right now.”

The Show spoke with one of the effort’s leaders, David Lujan, who said that goal has been achieved.

KJZZ’s Mariana Dale was also at the state Capitol where they held a press conference and turned in their signatures.

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