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Educational sales tax should go to voters

By Wildcat Staff
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
June 7, 2000
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The Arizona Legislature was called into a special session yesterday by Gov. Jane Hull. The topic - increased funding for education in a state ranked among the lowest nationwide in giving money to its schools. Hull's Education 2000 plan would increase the state sales tax from 5 percent to 5.6 percent, which would raise about $450 million annually to improve the state's public education.

All Hull is asking of the legislators is to let the voters decide by placing Education 2000 on the November ballot - most certainly a reasonable request.

The plan would give the state universities about $40 million to $50 million a year for improvements, primarily in the area which needs it the most - halting the "brain drain" by paying professors what they deserve.

UA President Peter Likins has said time and time again that quality education depends on quality teachers, and that by continually underpaying the state's best, we are bound to lose them to the mightier dollar.

It's not surprising, of course, that officials throughout the state's educational system support not only the plan, but giving it to the voters as well.

The truth is the plan is not perfect, but it is a proposal that will improve education at every level throughout the state system.

Hull's plan for the Department of Education to annually assess each school leaves out the specifics of the accountability. But that accountability will come by directing the money primarily toward those it will benefit most - teachers.

Approving or rejecting the plan should fall on the shoulders of the state's citizens, especially parents. The lives of their children rely heavily on a strong, well-funded education, and it would be foolish of any parents to deny so many dollars.

Outside the Capitol building yesterday, about 200 people gathered to throw their support to Education 2000.

Among them was ASUA President Ben Graff, whose assessment of the UA's financial woes was a simple one. "Retaining talent is a problem - we lose professors and administrators and that's the state's problem."

The observation is a simple one for any university student to make as more and more teachers leave. Apparently the 70-degree January sunshine isn't quite enough compensation for being paid far too little.

At a student-centered research university, such as the UA, teachers are the primary link between money and learning. Buildings are great, but energetic, excellent professors make the only real difference. And the UA will continue to lose its heart and soul until the money can match the real worth of the teachers.

Hull has set up her plan. It is there - waiting. And it is only right that the voters get the final say at the ballot boxes. Improving Arizona should start with improving the state's educational system - right down to every individual teacher.

Legislators, you have the call now. Don't be chickens - put it on the ballot. And voters, it's as simple as approving the sales tax increase. Give the schools what they need to work with. Give the kids a better chance.

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