Gov. Katie Hobbs released a budget plan in early January that encourages the extension of spending on Proposition 123, which has been the most discussed detail in the FY2025 Executive Budget Proposal.
In 2016, Proposition 123 was passed by voters to increase the state’s budget for schools. Now, almost 10 years later, Hobbs announced a plan to extend the funding and increase the State Land Trust Permanent Fund money distribution by 2%. The extended plan aims to specifically raise compensation for educators and staff, increase funding for school security, and the general school budget.
"I'm excited to share with you all my proposal to not only extend Prop 123, but to expand it so that we can finally change course and strengthen the future of our students in public schools," Hobbs said at a press conference Monday. "That means raises not only for teachers, but for every educator and support staff who make our schools a success. And it means safer schools for our children. It does all of this without raising taxes by one cent."
Teachers across the Phoenix area have reacted positively to the decision to increase funding for Proposition 123, including Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College alumna Jennifer Valencia, a seventh-grade teacher at Desert Sands Middle School.
Valencia said she hopes the extended funding will not only increase pay but will also increase the amount of staff working at the school.
"I've noticed a lack of teachers is definitely an issue," Valencia said. "A lot of teachers will leave because what they’re getting paid is not worth what they’re going through."
Valencia, who graduated from ASU in 2021 and has been a teacher for two years, explained the lack of pay and staff has caused her and her fellow teachers to take on roles that they are less confident in, which has been strenuous on their lives.
"I’m supposed to just teach ELA, but then they have a teaching and intervention class, for specific groups, which I don't feel qualified for," Valenica said. "So ideally, more money would go towards funding positions that would alleviate teachers with the extra jobs they have to do."
Mario Murillo, who graduated from Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and is now a teacher at Metro Tech High School, said the teacher shortage is a "huge crisis" in the Arizona education system.
"In our district, we are consistently looking for teachers," Murillo wrote in an email. "This forces many teachers to give up their prep period to cover an open period."
Murillo said many new or prospective teachers have been discouraged by the current teaching landscape and the education system’s inability to provide proper paychecks to overworked teachers.
"I think many prospective teachers look at salary schedules and benefits packages and start to look at another career,” Murillo said in an email. "Many teachers I know have to find extra ways to boost income, especially those with children and spouses at home."
Dawn Penich, a University professor and co-founder of the non profit Save Our Schools Arizona, said the extra funding that will come from Proposition 123’s extension would be best applied across multiple areas, including raising salaries, improving campus resources and increasing safety measures in schools.
Penich said the additional funding "should be able to do more than just one thing."
"We can make several areas of the education system stronger by spreading out that funding where it's needed most," Penich said.
Penich said it is not only teachers who are in need of the additional funding.
"So we're talking about people like the school nurse, we're talking about the crossing guards, we're talking about the people who drive the school buses so you can have a wonderful teacher at the front of the classroom," she said.
Hobbs’ push to extend Proposition 123 could affect each region of Arizona differently, but because Tempe schools already utilize local, state and federal funds, the area will benefit from the additional types of funding the plan will allow, according to Penich.
Many leaders in education see the Proposition 123 extension as a way to foster the future of children in schools, including the Arizona Business & Education Coalition President and CEO Tracey Benson.
She said she believes each child in a classroom deserves quality education that will allow them to become successful citizens.
"They're spending their time learning the things they need to be successful for their future and their career, Benson said. "We can't build a better, stronger Arizona without those frontline education professionals, who make such a difference in our kids' lives."
Benson said providing a child with a strong education, abundant resources and proper leadership directly impacts the Arizona university system, including ASU. Extending Proposition 123 will allow children in K-12 education to become better prepared adults in college, Benson said.
"When we strengthen K-12, it's definitely going to benefit our university systems and the students who are going into the university system," she said. "I think that’s a really important thing to not overlook."
Edited by Grey Gartin, Alysa Horton and Shane Brennan