What Arizona voters hear about Proposition 301 may not be what they get if it passes on Election Day. Gov. Jane Dee Hull’s $445 million education plan includes details for using the new revenue from a proposed sales-tax increase, but citizens who go to the polls on Nov. 7 will vote only on the increase.
The remaining details are embedded in a bill that, although approved by the legislature last summer, does not become law until May 31. That time lag, coupled with a peculiarity of Arizona law, may allow lawmakers to change aspects of the plan on which the public did not directly vote.
Provisions of the governor’s plan that will not appear on the ballot would:
- Earmark 85 percent of the revenue from the proposed tax increase for K-12 education, and the remaining 15 percent for colleges and universities;
- Mandate that schools spend 40 percent of the new revenue they receive on performance-based salary increases for teachers; 20 percent on base-pay increases for teachers; and 40 percent on certain items that include class-size reduction, teacher training, additional compensation for teachers, and dropout prevention;
- Set aside $70 million to pay annual debt service on $800 million in revenue bonds, which the state would issue to raise money for court-mandated capital improvements to schools;
- Lengthen the school year by five days, adding one extra day a year beginning in 2001-02, until the school calendar is 180 days long;
- Allow any public school with a character education curriculum to apply for a state matching grant of up to $1,500 annually;
- Establish a Student Accountability Information System, allowing the state to collect student educational data and track how schools spend state funds; and.
- Define failing schools and detail penalties for unacceptable progress.