PHOENIX (Reuters) - A proposal to pump $690 million into Arizona’s public education system by raising taxes on the state’s highest earners has qualified for the November ballot despite opposition from business interests, election officials said on Tuesday.
The development is the latest in the fallout from teacher protests and walkouts in several U.S. states earlier this year that attempted to bring awareness to what they say is the need to spend more money on education.
Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan said supporters had collected 187,628 valid voter signatures to have the so-called Invest In Education Act placed on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The measure, backed by a coalition of teachers, parents and education advocates, needed at least 150,642 signatures.
“We are excited that Arizona voters will have a chance to do what politicians have failed to do and invest in our students and our schools,” teacher and activist Joshua Buckley said.
Buckley said new money was desperately needed to reverse years of cutbacks to public schools by Arizona elected officials.
Under the ballot measure, which is supported by the Arizona Education Association, voters will be asked to approve a tax increase on high-wage earners to provide a dedicated revenue stream for education.
The measure proposes a 3.46 percent tax increase on income of individuals above $250,000 and households above $500,000. A 4.46 percent hike would be imposed on income of individuals over $500,000 and households over than $1 million.
Sixty percent of the new dollars would go to teacher salaries and the remainder to be allocated for operations, according to the proposal. Full-day kindergarten and pay raises for support staff also would be funded.
Opposition spokesman Garrick Taylor, a chamber of commerce executive, said the measure would double the income tax on many small businesses and affect all Arizonans, not just high earners.
“It wouldn’t even deliver the teacher pay raises its proponents have promised,” Taylor said. “It’s not the right plan for Arizona, and we’re confident voters will reject it in November.”
The group lost a legal challenge last week to prevent the measure from making the ballot.
Reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Leslie Adler