Funding K-12 Public Education

Funding K-12 Public Education

Spirit of Service Scholars Seminar

– Funding K-12 Public Education

Saturday Nov 4, 2017




On Saturday, November 4th 2017, the Spirit of Service Scholars program at Arizona State University commenced the second of six monthly, day long seminars. The seminar issue for this month focused on funding pre-K12 education and included discussions around accessibility, equity and opportunities for improving the education system in AZ. The audience of the seminar  consisted of Scholars, ASU students, public audience (e.g. teachers, activists), and junior scholars of SoSS program. The mission of the seminar was to raise awareness about K12 funding in education and to discuss practical actions for the future.


Panel Discussion on Education Funding


The first session of the program was a panel discussion with participants representing the public sector, education policy, and non-profits. Donna Davis from Expect More Arizona; Patrick McWhortor from Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits; Sarah Salinas, PhD student in Education Policy at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and Stanford Prescott from Phoenix Union School Board addressed the goals of public education and the impact funding has on achieving those goals.



The panelists perspective on the challenges and opportunities in the education system in Arizona as it relates to funding. The panelists emphasized the essential goal of education is to prepare students for life after school, with the necessary skills to pursue higher education and/or careers. Realizing this goal is contingent upon adequate funding and the panelists highlighted sales taxes, investment in special education, and teacher salary. Arizona is facing a significant challenge to retain highly qualified teachers due to comparatively low teacher salaries.  Salaries of teachers in Arizonais lower than New Mexico or California which had led some teachers to cross states for employment opportunities. Additionally, this is a marked lack of financial support for students with special needs and their families which can have a negative impact on students’ educational experience. Overall, the panelists opened the dialogue on the goal of education and how funding contributes to the achievement of the goal.


Utilizing sales taxes to fund education  was a fundamental aspect of discussion forthe panel. Participants discussed the role of taxes in improving the investment in education, they argued that encouraging people and raising awareness towards making citizens understand that education is good for the public, is one step towards supporting the education system. This was around the questions of how to raise awareness on: what is public good? how can we prove to people the public good of education?.


In summary, to invest in education,  there should be efforts to conduct taxes reforms. Such reforms should be accompanied with awareness campaigns, that encourage people to invest more in education, show them the impact of investing in education for short and long term. And encourage them to vote and to reach out politicians.


The Arizona Education System/Context on Funding

Erin Hart, Expect More Arizona

David Lujan, Vice President at Arizona Center for Economic Progress at Children’s Action Alliance and former State representative.


Erin Hart and David Lujan addressed the political, economic and social context for education funding in Arizona.  


According to Hart, there are five elements to watch when it comes to education funding in Arizona: (1) Tax system (low taxes vs. investing in education) (2) Performance funding (3) ESA’s – Vouchers (4) Capital funding lawsuit pending (5) Funding formula conversations stalled.


1 of 4 Arizona kids live in poverty, and the way to change that is to invest in education. And to do that, reforms in education should consider: taxes, teachers development, and address equity issues.


Imagine the Ideal School – Lego Activity


This activity is a combination of business origami and designing ecosystems.

In this activity, audience were divided into three groups. Each group had a toolkit of Lego with special cards. Each toolkit included items that reflected the ecosystem of schooling. The goal of this activity was to drive students and participants to discuss the future of schools, and how do they imagine it. Through the activity, different issues came up in the discussion within each group and between the groups.


The issues that were discussed are: school as a design and as a space, security, resources, futurism, technology, libraries, equity, gender, play and the role of school in 21st century. The designs of the schools were different, since each group had different resources. Through a meaningful interaction and serious play, the students reflected on their own experiences in K12, and their hope for the future. The school designs did not include security or safety component, yet, we discussed this as it is part of the design of schools nowadays.


Arizona Town Hall

Discussion questions for future leaders of Town Hall

ASU Future Leaders Town Hall on funding pre-K12 Education in Arizona

In this session, the participants of the seminar, discussed five questions that aim to come with a consensus around the K-12 funding. The facilitators of each group discussed with the participants their thoughts on the current status-quo, challenges and actions they can identify as a solution. By the end of the session, the group came with a consensus that was shared with Arizona Town Hall, with a hope that this will foster a reform.


Students discussed: goals of education, politicians engagement with local community, preparing students to be active citizens, and creating a State public funding stream for K-12 education , that includes suggestions for taxes reforms  to Increase taxes for education but make it proportional to income.


The Future of Arizona Education – Equity and Opportunities

Dr. David Garcia, Arizona State University

In his talk, Dr. David Garcia presented the funding issue across the lens of inequity, taking examples of challenging minorities face in the current education system.


Dr. Garcia differentiated between State Funding and Local Funding resources.  Equity in Arizona is constitutional, that said for example, a school in Tempe should have equal resources as a school in Scottsdale. Local funding are the problem, they are where the inequality in funding starts. If the State reduces its funding, and make schools rely on local funding (e.g. community income taxes), that affect the funding each school gets.


According to Dr. Garcia schools with high Latino populations are less likely to raise local funding than other communities. And it is not about taxes they pay or not, it is also associated with schooling performance and assessment.  

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