Additional funding only part of fix
The state Legislature may be continuing the effort to raise money for the state's education system. However, unless other problems within the system improve, more money will not solve anything.
Governor Jane Hull said last week that she plans to hold a special legislative session to discuss a bill that would raise state sales tax 0.6 percent and bring $440 million into the state education system.
The regular legislative session ended Tuesday night, but Hull wants to call the legislature back to discuss the bill.
While it is always important to continue raising money for the state's education system, a more important goal that Hull needs to address is changing the disparity in funding between poorer school districts and wealthier ones.
Previously, state property taxes funded education, which led to sharp disparities in funding. Wealthier neighborhoods where property tax is higher obviously had better-quality schools than poorer neighborhoods.
Therefore, pushing for a sales tax is a step in the right direction, because it could allow for more equal funding among districts than property taxes can.
Furthermore, the bill would provide state universities with 15 percent of revenues generated from the sales tax. The UA alone would receive an extra $20 million, an added bonus to the millions Likins has been raising for the university.
But the most important part about the bill is that it could be the beginning of a genuine effort to improve the K-12 public school system. Improving this system benefits the entire state, especially the universities. State universities clearly benefit if their potential students receive a better education early on.
However, more funding does not equal better education. Aside from supporting the bill, the state legislature needs to seriously consider how funding is being distributed among the state's public schools. If the tax increase is coupled with this effort, it will benefit the state's K-12 education system.
If the legislature votes in favor of the bill, it could land on the November ballot, and Arizona voters would have a chance to improve their education system by voting for the increase in sales tax.
But Arizona voters need to ask for more than just more funding. They need to demand that the state do all it can to equalize funding among all districts.
Some public high schools have two computers for every student. Others have one computer for every 30 students. There is no excuse for students in Arizona public schools to have such a difficult time getting access to such a basic resource.
It is unfortunate that the legislature did not manage to discuss the issue during the regular session. But a special session provides an opportunity for the state to get a head start in improving its education system.
If this tax increase is approved, hopefully it will not become merely an increase in funding that does nothing to solve real problems within the education system. Hopefully, the state will get to the root of the problem and make sure all schools have equal funding.