An initiative to provide funding for higher education is receiving petition signatures to place it on the November 2012 ballot.
Started by the Arizona Education Network, the Quality Education and Jobs Initiative would renew the provisions of Proposition 100, which is set to end in 2013.
Proposition 100 was approved by voters on the 2010 ballot and raised the Arizona state sales tax from 5.6 percent to 6.6 percent in order to provide funding for education, health and human services and public safety.
Arizona Education Network President Ann-Eve Pedersen said the initiative began after concerns were expressed regarding the expiration of Proposition 100.
"(The Arizona Education Network) started meeting with different groups to talk about what an education initiative would look like (and) what the key components would be," Pedersen said. "We've worked over the past year consulting with a number of different business leaders, educators, student leaders and other experts to come up with (the initiative)."
She said her personal leadership of the initiative is attributed to the difference she's seen in education quality from when she went to school in Arizona to when her 11-year-old son began attending school.
"When he started school in Arizona, I was really shocked at the lack of investment," Pedersen said. "I remember when I was in school Arizona made education a priority and it showed in our schools."
She said she has seen tremendous support for the initiative.
"From my personal experience, people were literally standing in line to sign this initiative," Pedersen said. "I found that very encouraging."
The Arizona Education Network has partnered with the Arizona Students' Association to gather support in collecting signatures.
ASA Executive Director Robyn Nebrich said the initiative began as a grassroots movement by students, teachers, parents and community members because of the legislature's lack of support for education funding.
"We haven't seen people down at the Capitol standing up for education as much as we really need them to," Nebrich said.
Though the initiative seeks to maintain the current one-cent-per-dollar state sales tax provided by Proposition 100, Nebrich said it would set aside a certain percent of incoming funds for universities and state financial aid rather than putting the money into a general fund that would be distributed evenly among the beneficiaries.
"(The initiative) protects funding for the universities (and) provides funding specifically for scholarships for students," Nebrich said.
Graduate and Professional Student Association Vice President for External Affairs Rhian Stotts said the funding would take financial pressure off the University and help prevent tuition from increasing.
"It's going to be a really great thing if we can get (the initiative) to pass," Stotts said. "Having more money in the system will help everybody."
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org