For the second year running, Arizona voters believe education is the most important issue facing our state. In fact, results from a statewide survey of likely Arizona voters, conducted on behalf of Expect More Arizona in December 2016 by Public Opinion Strategies, show that education is the top issue for Arizonans (43%) over immigration/border security (34%) and the economy (16%). More specifically, lack of funding (41%) and teacher pay/teacher shortage (34%) emerged as the two top education issues.
A majority of voters say too little funding is going to teacher pay (81%) and K-12 public education (72%). And when asked what education issue, if any, they would pay more in taxes to support, higher teacher pay was the top choice across all political parties. Also notable, only 8 percent of all likely voters surveyed indicated an overall unwillingness to pay more taxes to support education.
The survey also showed overwhelming support for the renewal of Prop 301 across all political parties (79% All, 72% R, 90% D, 78% I), and a willingness to increase the Prop 301 sales tax rate in order to fund teacher pay (74%) or to help all Arizona children read proficiently by the end of third grade (73%).
Additional notable takeaways:
- Finding a long-term solution for education funding is rated as a top education priority by 84 percent of likely Arizona voters, regardless of their age, party affiliation, ethnicity, economic status, or geographic location.
- Ninety-five (95) percent of voters believe it is important to provide schools the funding they need to attract and retain great teachers with 76 percent agreeing Arizona is facing a teacher shortage crisis.
- An overwhelming majority agree that Arizona must ensure all students receive the support needed to read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade (95%).
- Voters agree all students deserve a great education (96%) and that education impacts the strength of our communities (95%).
- Eighty percent agree that increasing the number of people who graduate from the state’s public community colleges and universities will help improve the state’s economy and 75 percent of voters also agree that community colleges and universities should receive additional funding.
While these and other poll results clearly show what Arizona voters care most about, the state also has a meaningful tool to better understand where we stand on these and other key education metrics. In early 2016, Expect More Arizona and the Center for the Future of Arizona collaborated to elevate a set of widely accepted indicators by which Arizonans can measure our state’s progress, celebrate successes and take action together. The Arizona Education Progress Meter includes indicators that start with the early years and continue through each important milestone leading up to graduating high school and achieving career training or a degree.
With an understanding of where we stand today and where we need to go, Expect More Arizona will call on its growing network of individuals and organizations to work together to move the following priorities forward this year:
- A long-term solution to increase education funding from the early years through college and career, with a focus on equity and excellence in results; including the update and renewal of Prop 301.
- Improving teacher recruitment and retention, to include supporting new funding for teacher pay in 2017 and working with our partners statewide to set a long-term goal for increased teacher pay.
- Supporting early literacy and third grade reading proficiency for all students, including improvements to Move On When Reading and advocating for new funding for evidence-based interventions.
- Ensuring high expectations that support excellence for all, including the revision of the A-F accountability system to be a better measure of the contributions of teachers and schools to student achievement.
- Building greater awareness of the connection between postsecondary attainment (training or education beyond a high school diploma) and strong economy and community.
- Supporting investments in Arizona’s community colleges and movement toward funding 50 percent of the cost to educate resident students at state universities.
“We are encouraged to see such strong support from voters statewide for Arizona’s teachers and students,” says Erin Hart, Chief Operating Officer for Expect More Arizona. “We look forward to working together with policymakers and elected officials to make education a top priority and to advance the preferences of Arizona voters.”