Part two of The Arizona Independent’s series on how the Republican-controlled state legislature measures up on key issues.
Jeff Fuentes Gleghorn & Anzhe Zhang
Arizona’s Republican-controlled state legislature has spent the last year attempting to pass legislation that is out of line with Arizonans on education funding.
In 2020, Arizona voters approved Proposition 208, a tax increase on Arizona’s wealthiest to increase funding for education. Republicans in the state legislature responded by creating new tax brackets to exempt some high earners from the tax. The measure was expected to raise around $800 million for schools in Arizona, but the changes pushed through by GOP leadership cut that by nearly $300 million. Ultimately, Proposition 208 was declared unconstitutional by the Maricopa County Superior Court.
Additionally, Republicans in the state legislature have prioritized funding for charter schools over public schools, with Arizona currently being ranked 48th in public school spending out of 50 states, making it one of the worst-funded public school systems in the country.
These funding problems have been compounded in the last few years by the pandemic with teacher stress at an all-time high and staff shortages becoming more severe. Whether or not these issues are addressed by the state legislature could depend on the outcome of a few key races.
Incumbent Democrat, Representative Jennifer Pawlik (LD 13) is up for reelection and has experience both as a teacher and on the House Education Committee.
Representative Judy Schwiebert (LD 20) will face off against her likely incumbent Republican counterpart, Representative Justin Wilmeth who voted in favor of the bill to undermine Proposition 208 before it was struck down by the court. Wilmeth also supports expanding private school vouchers to all students, a move that would drain millions of dollars from public school funding.
Education funding is just one of the issues where the GOP controlled legislature is out of step with Arizona voters. Check out the rest of the series to see how Arizona Republicans handled other election critical issues including water access and wildfire prevention, housing and education.