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Red For Ed activists say they're on pace to exceed signature goals

The "Invest in Ed" campaign—a movement that stems from Red For Ed—may be one step closer to putting an income tax hike on the November ballot for public school funding.
Credit: Dana, Joe
12th Grade Government and Economics Teacher Josh Buckley is the chair of the #InvestInEd campaign.

PHOENIX - The Red For Ed campaign may be a step closer to putting an income tax hike on the November ballot in the name of school funding.

With just one week to go before the deadline to submit petitions for a ballot initiative, organizers of the "Invest in Ed" campaign—a movement that stems from Red For Ed—tell 12 News they are on pace to exceed their signature gathering goals.

Organizers and volunteers, who held a signature gathering event in 100-degree heat over the weekend at the State Capitol, say they have averaged about 4,000 signatures a day over the course of 60 days. That would amount to about 240,000 signatures.

They need just over 150,642 valid signatures by July 5 to qualify the initiative for the November ballot. Organizers say they are now in the phase of collecting signed petitions from volunteers across the state and that they want a large cushion before signatures are turned in to ensure they meet the minimum number required after vetting by the secretary of state's office.

"We are cautiously optimistic," said Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association. "Our goal of 225,000 is solid."

Teachers and parents have gathered signatures at ballparks, grocery store parking lots and doorsteps across the state in a grassroots movement aimed at replenishing hundreds of millions of dollars still missing from the state budget since recession-era cuts.

The Red For Ed movement, which began last Fall, has been credited with pressuring the governor and lawmakers during the recent budget session to pass a 20 percent teacher pay raise over the next three years. As schools still face an estimated $700 million shortfall compared to a decade ago, organizers say it is time for the next step.

The Invest in Education Act would raise the income tax rate from 4.5 percent to 8 percent for individuals making at least $250,000 and for families earning at least $500,000. For the very wealthiest (individuals making at least $500,000 and families making at least $1 million) the tax rate would rise to 9 percent.

The proposition would raise an estimated $690 million annually for the state’s Classroom Site Fund. The money would go toward, among other needs, teacher salaries, supplies, full-day kindergarten and class-size reduction purposes.

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Since the passage of Governor Ducey's 20X2020 plan, teacher pay raises have been approved by school districts that amount to between 9 percent and 15 percent, and in some cases even up to 20 percent for next year alone.

Gov. Doug Ducey has been touting those numbers as proof the state is moving in the right direction. Ducey has made it clear in the past he would not support a tax hike on Arizonans. In addition to
several hundred million dollars in new funds approved for teacher salaries, the legislature unleashed $100 million for discretionary funds for school districts to spend as they choose.

But the boost in spending does not appear to have placated enough Arizonans who want more funding for classrooms.

"Anywhere we go, people are recognizing the red shirts and coming up to us and are signing," Thomas said.

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