Arizona’s dignity falls with Proposition 204

The past 48 hours have been a battleground of opinions, heated discussions and political statements from less-than-informed citizens. America’s president, through the campaign dust and verbal shrapnel, has been elected once more.

But many young voters have forgotten about the slew of other topics that reached verdicts on Election Day. On Tuesday night, one proposition, among many, in this state fell short of majority vote.

I am ashamed to call myself an Arizonan.

Proposition 204 would have permanently extended a tax increase, the same one decided in 2010: A one-cent-per-dollar increase. It would have set Arizona’s sales tax at 6.6 percent — which is the current tax rate. The proposition, which would raise about a billion dollars a year, could supplement public services like children’s health care and primarily, education.

For education, Proposition 204 funded teachers’ salaries, maintenance, equipment, books and programs like physical education and music.

This shouldn’t even be a discussion.

In a national report regarding the measurement of state education policies and programs, Arizona ranked No. 44 in the nation. In February, Cronkite News reported that Arizona was given “a below-average grade in student achievement, teacher requirements and state spending.”

As if by some sadistic response, we’ve just voted out one of the biggest sources of spending in our schools.

However, the sad truth has to do with the color of our state. When the majority of conservative Arizonans see the words “tax increase,” they also see death threat placed on their wallets. There is no morality, no duty and no foresight — only money.

Conservative populations in the state cannot simply come to grips with that one-cent-per-dollar tax. The mark on the ballot for “no” was easy to etch, while repercussions from the failed initiative will be harder to address.

Without the money generated from Proposition 204, a variety of things will be the first to go. Music programs are typical prey for district cuts, which means no more bands, orchestras or choirs. Next on the list will be physical, health and wellness education. After all, they’re not considered necessities in a standard education.

Worst of all? Qualified and passionate teachers will be few and far apart. The U.S. already categorizes educators as underpaid and underappreciated. As salaries for teachers depreciate, a pattern is perpetuated: Teaching is not a profession worthy of significant pay. This is nothing short of a tragedy.

I’m no political expert, nor am I an economic analyst. But something needs to change. By voting down Proposition 204, we exhibit our recklessness for our state’s future.

The damage is done. Election Day was bittersweet. I remain optimistic for my country as a whole. However, I continually find reasons to shake my head in disappointment at Arizona.

 

Reach the columnist at mschan1@asu.edu or follow him at @MorganSukotto