Why I couldn't sign Invest in Ed's pledge to boost Arizona education funding


I loved Invest in Ed’s idea to ask candidates to sign a pledge supporting sustained additional education funding.

Because we all should want that, right? It would be great to put that kind of support on record for voters.

Then I read the pledge.

And I realized that even though I wholeheartedly agree – we need elected leaders (particularly lawmakers) to make a long-term commitment to fix what ails our schools – if I was running for office, I couldn’t in good conscience sign the pledge.

What Invest in Ed’s pledge says

The first part is fine. It says, “When elected, I will work with #RedforEd leaders to restore critical funding for education with sustainable revenue so that Arizona public schools can keep and attract the best teachers and provide our children with the quality education that they deserve.”

Who wouldn’t do that?

Even if you didn’t back the spring teacher walkout, RedforEd is a powerful group that, so far, has demonstrated it wants to be in this for the long haul. Anyone in office will have to work with them.

And, yes, we do need to restore what’s been cut since the recession – and ensure we have the revenue to sustain whatever we do. That’s just good governance.

But things get problematic in the bullet points. Those who sign also commit to:

  • Immediately restore education funding to 2008 levels.
  • Pass a 20 percent salary increase for teachers to create competitive pay with neighboring states.
  • Offer competitive pay for all education support professionals.
  • Create a permanent teacher salary structure, which includes annual raises.
  • Enact no new tax cuts until per-student funding reaches the national average.

My two big problems with it

Namely, I see two problems:

1)     The word “immediately.” It makes it sound like whoever gets elected can waltz in, wave a magic wand and restore what’s been cut since the recession. But that’s not possible. We’re talking a billion dollars – cash the state doesn’t have with current revenue. If that’s not restored in the first legislative session (and it likely won’t be), does that mean you’re breaking the pledge?

2)     It’s not the state’s job to create a permanent teacher salary structure – or it shouldn’t be, at least. That job should be left to districts. I know. There are some who say the districts have been derelict with raises, and so the state should step in with something more uniform. But philosophically, I think that’s a bad idea. Local control is best.

I suspect a lot of fiscally conservative candidates will feel the same way. And that’s unfortunate. Because it would be nice to have a pledge that both sides can sign in good faith – if for no other reason than we should be holding both sides of the aisle accountable on education.

That said, the pledge is still good, and useful, and I hope everyone who believes those bullet points will sign it.

It still makes a good guide for voters on where candidates stand.

Reach Allhands at joanna.allhands@arizonarepublic.com.


  • Here’s the good news now that Invest in Ed is off the ballot
  • Arizona has the nation’s worst teacher pay gap. Don’t forget that
  • Why are Arizona teachers running in droves for the House and Senate?

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