For the third consecutive year, a majority of Arizona voters surveyed believe education is the top issue facing our state today. In fact, education (42 percent) was named more than twice as many times as any other issue when voters responded to the opened-ended question. Border issues and illegal immigration (16 percent), government spending/taxes (5 percent), the economy (5 percent), and jobs and wages (5 percent) rounded out the top five issues mentioned. The question was asked of 600 likely voters statewide in a poll conducted on behalf of Expect More Arizona in December 2017 by HighGround, Inc.
Pressing in on the topic of education, an overwhelming majority of voters across all political parties say the salaries K-12 teachers receive are too low (86 percent All, 80 percent Rep, 95 percent Dem, 85 percent Ind) and that too little funding is going to K-12 public education in Arizona (76 percent All, 61 percent Rep, 93 percent Dem, 76 percent Ind).
Concerns about funding and teacher pay rose to the top throughout the survey. When asked to consider the top issues facing education in Arizona, voters said budget/Lack of funding (31 percent), teacher salaries (19 percent) and teacher shortage (8 percent).
Asked to rate a list of items in terms of funding priorities for education, three of the top five highest rated items have to do with teacher pay. Teacher pay also far outpaced other education issues as the thing voters would be most willing to pay more in taxes to support.
For the second year in a row, survey results also show strong support for extending and updating Proposition 301 in order to increase teacher pay. Extending the Prop 301 sales tax, which is set to expire in 2021, has support across all political parties (72 percent All, 60 percent Rep, 85 percent Dem, 80 percent Ind). Similar levels of support exist to increase the Prop 301 sales tax from .6 percent to 1 percent in order to increase teacher pay (68 percent All, 53 percent Rep, 86 percent Dem, 74 percent Ind). A smaller majority support an increase to 1.6 percent (56 percent All, 41 percent Rep, 76 percent Dem, 63 percent Ind).
Stand for Children – Arizona also conducted a poll in December 2017. The results are similar and reinforce the need to address education funding as soon as possible.
While these and other poll results clearly show Arizona voters care deeply about education, the state also has a meaningful tool to better understand where we stand as a state on teacher pay and other important education indicators. The Arizona Education Progress Meter was developed through a partnership between Expect More Arizona, the Center for the Future of Arizona, and more than 200 organizations, business leaders, educators, and community leaders. Included are eight key indicators that help us understand where we are today, and goals for each indicator that articulate where we want to go.
With an eye toward achieving the long-term goals outlined in the Arizona Education Progress Meter, Expect More Arizona will call on its network of organizations and individuals to work together to move the following priorities forward in 2018:
o Promote policies to identify struggling students early
o Build support for policy changes to address the growing achievement gap (including support for students with special needs and English Learners, among others).
o Support reinvestment in Arizona’s community colleges.
o Support continued progress toward funding 50 percent of AZ’s university resident students.
o Support efforts to provide salary incentives for teachers to complete and maintain research-based credentials.
“We are encouraged to see continued support from voters statewide for Arizona’s teachers and students,” says Christine M. Thompson, President and CEO of Expect More Arizona. “The Education Progress Meter data and goals can drive our conversations about policy, funding, and local initiatives to advance educational outcomes, strengthen our state and local economies, and improve the quality of life for everyone who lives and works in Arizona.”