Governor’s proposals good starting points as state pursues college-completion goals
Sharon Harper, Carrie Heinonen and Greg White
Advancing an issue as important as education requires a goal.
That is why so many stakeholders worked diligently over the last year to create Achieve60AZ, which calls for 60 percent of Arizona adults to complete some form of postsecondary education by 2030.
Earning an industry certification, a community college degree or university education not only creates a bright future for students, but it provides Arizona with the capable workforce necessary to meet the demands of Arizona’s future economy.
Realizing the Achieve60AZ goal will require improvement at every level of the P-20 education pipeline, from early childhood to advanced degrees from our universities. It will require more resources, new programs and cross-sector leadership, sustained over time.
Our groups, representing more than 250 CEOs and more than 500,000 working Arizonans, are pleased with Gov. Doug Ducey's proposed budget. With limited resources available, it provides a direction and framework we can build on over time.
Ducey has the right priorities for K-12
The funding commitment to K-12 education is a welcome step 4, after the voter-approved Proposition 123.
We realize how to spend limited resources requires negotiations about how much funding should be allocated to each educational program. These will be challenging given the diversity of needs and philosophies within our state, yet all stakeholders must be included in these deliberations. That is how we will achieve the best outcomes.
Voters' top K-12 education concern is teacher retention and recruitment, and state funding priorities should focus heavily on improved compensation and incentives. We also agree that literacy can be improved with early childhood education and full-day kindergarten, and we support adding as many students to this program as soon as possible.
The Greater Phoenix Leadership-led Project 456 is convening stakeholders and exploring a range of innovative ways to approach and sequence the next steps, many of which the governor has articulated and for which we are grateful. Included in our planning is the obvious need to renew and modernize Proposition 301, a dedicated sales tax funding education, as well as the Technology Research Infrastructure Fund for our universities, which terminates in just four years.
2 big priorities for universities
Our universities are wealth-generating engines for our state and deserve greater support. In the past eight years, higher education funding in Arizona was cut by more than $463 million – the largest reductions, on a percentage basis, enacted by any state. Arizona leads the nation in funding cuts and tuition increases.
First, we fully support restoring funding to our universities that moves to a 50-50 sharing of the cost to educate resident students between the state and the public university system.
Second, research and development infrastructure is vital for universities. Having a dedicated revenue stream for funding university building renewal and new construction is critical to growing Arizona’s economy and creating more high-wage jobs.
We fully endorse the governor’s innovative budget proposal for a sales tax recapture program that would allocate nearly $37 million to support capital infrastructure at Arizona’s public universities. This program is a smart and efficient way for universities to retain and reinvest sales tax dollars generated on their campuses.
The sales tax recapture program would support new research and development labs and facilities, which will dramatically grow cutting-edge research in our state. The plan is not a tax exemption, nor is it Tax Increment Financing. It is a recommendation to divert transaction privilege tax revenues from universities to the universities. No new statutory exemption will be created, and the tax will still be collected by the Department of Revenue, minimizing legal issues and maximizing public oversight.
This will also improve talent recruitment for Arizona’s public universities, which have set an aggressive goal to double research capacity. New facilities will help us attract the brightest teachers, researchers and students, preparing the next generation of Arizona’s workforce. This economic expansion, vital for the state, simply cannot be met without additional investment of this type.
This isn't just about one year's budget
Arizona’s CEOs understand that the challenges and problems facing Arizona’s education pipeline are complex, and like many Arizonans, we share a sense of urgency to improve Arizona education as soon as possible.
We also recognize that that there is no one solution to quickly strengthen and improve education. We need a comprehensive and sustainable plan, and, importantly, the political will and means to fund it.
We are eager to work with the Legislature, the governor, educators and Arizonans. We must act boldly and decisively, with mutual respect and openness, to set Arizona on a path toward sustained and equitable educational excellence.
We will hold ourselves, and our policy makers, accountable for continued advancement. We will because we must, and we must because a better future for Arizona depends on it.
Sharon Harper is president/CEO of Plaza Companies and chair of Greater Phoenix Leadership; Carrie Heinonen is CEO of The Museum of Northern Arizona and chair of Northern Arizona Leadership Alliance; Greg White is CFO of Raytheon Missile Systems and chair of Southern Arizona Leadership Council.
For more information or assistance, contact Governor Ducey's press office: (602) 542-1342.