Arizona Proposition 204: Where does the money go?

| October 1 2012

Before voters fall for the feel-good rhetoric of Proposition 204 – the so-called Quality Education and Jobs Initiative – they should ask themselves how much of the sales tax increase will make its way to the teachers and students in the classroom.

Proposition 204 proponents cloak their support of the initiative in the traditional progressive appeal that more taxing and spending for education is all for the children: Spend more and taxpayers will get more – better-educated children prepared to be productive adults in the workplace and the community.

Never mind that 204 generated funds would go for road building and social services as well as education. Forget that the people’s elected representatives would have nothing to say about how the money is spent.

So how does the $1 billion raised from a permanent increase in the state’s sales tax rate actually affect what goes on in the classroom?

Proposition 204 would establish a list of mandated spending through “designated funds” out of reach of the Governor and the State Legislature. The “funds” for education actually are pots of money that do more for the education bureaucracy and university administrators than the students in the classroom.

Half the annual take from the sales tax hike — $500 million – goes for a fund called the “quality education and performance fund” to assist K-12 schools comply with “assessment and “accountability” rules. That sounds like a dark hole of bureaucratic record keeping to meet standards set by other bureaucrats.

Then there is $50 million for the “university scholarship, operations and infrastructure fund” to assist resident students with tuition costs and state universities with infrastructure expenses. Money for scholarships can be tax money well spent, but why should taxpayers subsidize state universities’ insatiable appetite for building projects that inflate tuition costs?

That is a look at $550 million a year in 204 spending. There is more spending for funds to update a statewide education database and an education accountability and improvement fund.

Teachers and students will see none of this money. Voters should not be fooled by high-minded appeals to help the children while special interests line their pockets. They should defeat Proposition 204 on Election Day.

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