FLORENCE — A school board member urged parents and community members to call their legislators and urge them to lift the spending cap that keeps Arizona public schools the lowest-funded in the country.

“Arizona continues to rank dead last, 50th, in school funding, in per-pupil funding. That’s alarming and that needs to change,” Florence Unified School District Governing Board member Tammy Quist said at the board’s Jan. 11 meeting.

“We also have the second-most-crowded class sizes in the United States. And we are the highest — number one — in teacher turnover in the country. Which means that teachers are leaving the classrooms. We have open classrooms every single day across this state. That’s just not acceptable,” Quist said.

She said Arizona’s public-school spending cap varies each year based on the previous year’s enrollment. After last year’s low enrollment during the pandemic, “that’s going to hurt us this year. … We’re not going to be funded for the bodies that are in classrooms today, because of last year’s numbers.

“Something very concerning to me as a taxpayer and a community member is charter schools are not included in that spending limit. … They didn’t exist in 1980 when the aggregate spending limit was voted on and passed,” Quist said.

She said for those who are interested in getting involved, “Contact your legislators. Tell them we need to lift the spending cap in Arizona public schools. It takes a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. We have been so divisive, everything is so divided along partisan lines; this is not a partisan issue. Take a look around, see the children in the audience, this is about them.”

Quist said it’s about teachers and bus drivers as well. She said the board wants to continue to support FUSD’s “great staff members” and also have the appropriate resources to give students “a world-class education.”

She said Arizona’s Proposition 208, which passed by 1.7 million votes in 2020, has still not been disbursed to schools because it remains tied up in court. The law would impose a 3.5% tax surcharge on taxable annual income over $250,000 for single persons or married persons filing separately, or $500,000 for married persons filing jointly or heads of households, to increase funding for public education.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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