Backers of plan for state’s top earners to pay more for education file ballot petitions

Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas explains why teachers and their allies decided the best way to get new money into the classroom was an additional tax on the richest Arizonans./Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services

By Howard Fischer |Capitol Media Services 

Arizona voters might get a chance to vote on whether the top 4% of wage earners in the state should pay more to support education.

Petitions filed Thursday would add a 3.5% surcharge on taxes on income above more than $250,000 a year for individuals and $500,000 for married couples filing jointly.

The measure, if it makes the ballot and is approved, would raise about $940 million for public education.

Of the 435,699 signatures backers said they submitted, 237,645 need to be found valid to put the issue on the November ballot.

As crafted, half of the funds would be spent both to hire teachers and classroom support personnel like nurses and counselors, and to increase compensation.

Another 25% would be for classroom aides, school safety officers and transportation.

There’s also 12% for grants for career and technical education programs, 10% to help mentor new teachers, and 3% to increase funding for the Arizona Teachers Academy that provides free tuition at state universities for those who agree to go into the classroom.

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