Arizona schools chief says GOP budget plan takes state in ‘negative direction’

May 19, 2021, 4:25 AM | Updated: 8:13 pm
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)...
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

PHOENIX — Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman says a GOP budget deal that was struck between Republican leaders of the Arizona Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey that includes an income tax cut would be taking the state in a “negative direction.”

“Budgets reflect our values as a state, and this budget proposal that essentially slashes taxes for those at the top at the expense of the middle and working-class families and their children says a lot about how our state views their needs,” Hoffman told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.

“This is really taking us in a negative direction.”

The proposal includes implementing a flat 2.5% income tax that cuts $1.5 billion a year from state revenue and keeps higher-earning taxpayers from having to directly pay a new 3.5% surcharge to fund schools as part of Proposition 208 that was approved by voters in November.

“A flat tax would mean less revenue for our public schools, less money to pay teachers what they deserve,” Hoffman said, adding it would also mean less for extracurricular activities like music and art that are often the first things to get cut when budgets are tight.

“It is astonishing to me that we continue to see these types of initiatives that would give tax cuts to the highest earners when voters have made it very clear with Prop 208 that the majority of Arizonans support taxing the highest earners as a way to fund our public school system.”

The deal envisions using the state general fund to make up the difference so the full 3.5% surcharge would go to the schools, that is if the measure survives a challenge being decided by the Arizona Supreme Court.

Ducey has been a strong opponent of the initiative that was approved by a difference of approximately 113,000 votes and vowed to see it canceled through the courts or the GOP-controlled state Legislature, saying the bill makes the state’s tax code uncompetitive.

The initiative will be used to hire and increase the salaries of teachers – which are some of the lowest in the nation – as well as nurses, counselors, classroom aides and bus drivers.

Increased funding from the bill would also expand career and technical education programs in addition to mentoring and retention programs for new teachers.

Hoffman said the biggest priority for the education budget should be having sustainable state funding that schools can rely on, something she says has been missing.

“They have been having to try to make budgets without actually knowing how much funding they’ll be receiving from the state,” Hoffman said.

“There’s been a lot of instability and unpredictability around student enrollment and distance learning, and what our schools really need is they need sustainable funding they can count on which would give our schools the stability they need to budget, and not just one year at a time but to really project their budgets in a way that is reliable.”

Hoffman added schools are in the process of receiving federal relief and recovery dollars, but that is meant to supplement state funding.

Schools across the state are offering expanded summer programs and more intervention programs to address any deficits in reading and math, according to Hoffman, while also trying to expand mental health support as schools see an increase of needs to address next school year as a result of the disruption caused to students by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We really want to make sure we are doing everything we can to start the next school year strong, which does mean that we need additional resources on top of what is typical for a typical school year,” Hoffman said.

She asks the state Legislature to focus on what schools need and not pass any tax cuts that would take away revenue from the state and essential funding for the public school system.

“It’s appalling that we don’t even fund full-day kindergarten in Arizona and yet we are looking at tax cuts for the wealthiest,” Hoffman said.

Republicans were briefed on the package Monday and House Majority Leader Ben Toma said late Monday night that GOP House members were mulling over the package.

The budget has not been formally introduced.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Taylor Kinnerup and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Blake Masters, candidate for U.S. senator from Arizona, appears with former President Donald Trump ...
Kevin Stone

Trump reportedly delays plan to endorse Masters in Arizona’s US Senate race

Donald Trump is reportedly tapping the brakes on a plan to endorse venture capitalist Blake Masters in Arizona's GOP Senate primary race.
13 hours ago
(Twitter Photo/Phoenix Police Department)...
Jayme West

Phoenix police searching for fire starters from 2020 and armed would-be robber

A Phoenix business was set on fire in July 2020 and police are looking for two suspects caught on camera.
13 hours ago
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and other senators speak to the press about a bipartisan infrastructure package...
Kevin Stone

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona makes Time list of most influential people for 2022

U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona was named to Time magazine’s 2022 list of the world's 100 most influential people.
13 hours ago
(Screenshot via ADOT Webcam)...

Westbound US 60 reopens in Tempe after weekslong repair work

Traffic returned to westbound U.S. 60 in Tempe on Sunday night, after a closure to repair damage caused by a water main break.
13 hours ago
(Screenshot via ADOT Webcam)...

Fatal crash closes Interstate 17 in north Phoenix for hours

One person was killed and others were injured in a multivehicle crash that closed northbound Interstate 17 in Phoenix early Monday.
13 hours ago
Follow @TaDunham...
Sponsored Content by Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.

Sponsored Articles

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
Dr. Richard Carmona

Have you gotten your booster shot?

Do you remember when you got your last COVID-19 vaccination? If it has been more than five months since you completed your primary vaccination series, it’s time for you to get your booster. You may be eligible even sooner depending which vaccine you received. If you are over the age of 50 and received your […]
Arizona schools chief says GOP budget plan takes state in ‘negative direction’