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By Amanda Litvinov
In order to provide appropriate funding for public education, states must have adequate and consistent sources of revenue and use them properly.
Translation: States need to have a fair system of taxation, and invest taxpayer dollars in the public schools attended by 90 percent of students.
These are key issues that education voters must use to evaluate candidates running for governor. The difference between good and terrible proposals on funding schools is easy to spot. Here are a few examples:
Gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker wants to invest more in K-12 public schools, beginning with expanding access to early childhood education. He plans to do that by passing a progressive income tax, which asks top earners to pay a higher tax rate than those who make less.
Pritzker has also vowed to end the state voucher program created by current Gov. Rauner. The voucher program, which allows up to $75 million in tax credits per year for those who donate to private school scholarship funds, drains funding that should go to public schools.
“What I really oppose is taking money out of the public schools and that is what happened here in order to provide that private tax credit to wealthy people,” Pritzker said.
Gov. Bruce Rauner
Gov. Rauner has done nothing to improve Illinois’ system of taxation, one of the most regressive in the country. In Illinois, those who make less are asked to pay taxes at a higher rate than those who make much more.
What’s worse, Rauner has championed an underhanded private school voucher scheme that siphons off money that should be invested in the state’s underfunded public schools. Rauner is so dedicated to the program that he held up the state budget every year he has been in office, plunging K-12 schools and public colleges and universities into fiscal chaos.
Gov. Tom Wolf
Delivering on one of his major campaign promises, Gov. Wolf has nearly reversed the devastating $1 billion cut in public school funding lawmakers approved in 2011. “Gov. Wolf committed himself to public education funding when he campaigned for governor, and he has kept that promise in every state budget since he’s been in office,’’ said educator and PSEA Vice President Dolores McCracken. “There is still plenty of work ahead, but this puts a dark chapter behind us.’’
Alleviating past education cuts is not enough to keep up with students’ needs. Gov. Wolf has a plan to further increase investment in public education. Pennsylvania is the only state that does not tax the billions of dollars’ worth of oil and gas that drillers extract every year. Gov. Wolf is close to making the oil and natural gas drillers pay their fair share for the first time ever, and will use the revenue to balance the state budget while investing more in schools.
State Sen. Scott Wagner, the front-runner for the Republican nomination, has not released a plan to increase tax fairness. He has made it clear that he will do damage to public school funding if elected. Wagner supports Wagner supports bringing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s education agenda to Pennsylvania with a statewide voucher plan.
Wagner, a strident critic of public schools and educator unions, stated that teachers are overpaid during a radio interview in March. He wants to eliminate benefits that educators earn, including pensions and sick days. He has even said that retired educators should give back 10 percent of the retirement they earned.
David Garcia, an education leadership professor running for governor, has said the state must do much more to fix its school funding crisis. Arizona spends roughly $4,200 less per pupil than the national average and it has the lowest teacher pay in the country.
“Arizona teachers … are forced to leave the profession because they cannot support a family on their stagnant, below average wages,” Garcia told EducationVotes.
Garcia will ask the wealthiest individuals and corporations to pay their fair share in taxes in order to raise another $1 billion annually to invest in schools. His proposal involves closing corporate tax loopholes and requiring the state’s top 1% of earners to pay their fair share. When looking at state and local income, property, and sales taxes, the poorest 20 percent of families in Arizona pay three times more than what the top 1 percent of income earners pay.
Garcia has also promised to fight to put an end to Gov. Ducey’s private school vouchers, which send taxpayer funding to private and religious schools that are not required to meet basic state standards, and pick and choose who they enroll.
Gov. Doug Ducey
Meanwhile, Gov. Doug Ducey refuses to acknowledge that Arizona’s system of taxation, skewed in favor of wealthy citizens and corporations, hampers the state’s ability to invest in public schools. Arizona now spends a billion dollars less on public schools than it did in 2008. The state ranks at the bottom nationally in per pupil spending. And yet, state lawmakers have cut taxes and expanded tax credits for corporations every year since 1990.
When adjusted for inflation, that amounts to about $4.4 billion in reduced revenue—money that could have been used for students, educators, and public schools.
Although Gov. Ducey proposed a 20 percent raise for teachers, he did not propose any tax changes that would ensure the state has the funding to pay for it.