Arizona schools chief says K-12 education in state is ‘improving’

Jan 23, 2018, 4:47 AM
FILE - In this June 2, 2015, file photo, Diane Douglas, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instructio...

FILE - In this June 2, 2015, file photo, Diane Douglas, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, meets with reporters in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

PHOENIX — Diane Douglas, the state superintendent of public instruction, spoke on the state of Arizona’s education during her State of Education address on Monday.

Douglas said a massive teacher shortage is one of the biggest challenges facing the state’s K-12 education. One of the reasons for the shortage, according to Douglas, is that Arizona teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation.

“The state of education in Arizona is improving,” she said. “There’s much work to be done.”

Douglas said the shortage has gotten so bad that more than 20 percent of teacher positions “remain open and vacant after the first four months of the school year.”

Related: Ducey lays out plan to increase funding for Arizona education

But Douglas said there is a solution to addressing the teacher shortage crisis and funding K-12 education: Asking voters to permanently expand the Proposition 301 sales tax from six-tenths of a cent to a full cent.

“Prop. 301 would increase teacher’s salaries, along with a much-needed funding for school capital expenditures.”

While Douglas admits she is not a fan of raising sales taxes, she said it is the only “readily available” vehicle to funding the state’s education.

Gov. Doug Ducey has supported extending and “modernizing” the tax but has made no move to put it on the ballot.

Rep. Doug Coleman of Apache Junction introduced legislation earlier this month to make Prop. 301 permanent to provide more budget certainty to the state’s public schools.

Prop. 301 is currently set to expire in 2021. The tax approved by voters in 2000 brings in than 10 percent of total state school funding and expires after 2020.

KTAR News’ Griselda Zetino and the Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Arizona schools chief says K-12 education in state is ‘improving’