Cradle to Career Educational Opportunities for All

There is no reason Arizona should be in last place for education in the nation.

Excellence and equity in our public school system is key to building an economy that works for everyone, and it is the cornerstone of a healthy economy.

In spite of his laughable claims to be the “education governor,” Doug Ducey has slashed funding for public schools to pay for irresponsible corporate tax cuts, and shifted dollars away from our public schools in order to fund private and for-profit schools. 

Don’t believe the expensive ad campaign Ducey’s friends have launched to lie about the state of education. The Arizona Children’s Action Alliance reports that our public school system’s 2019 operating budget is missing $952 million from where we were in 2008.

Today, Arizona pays our teachers less and overall spends less per student than nearly every state in the nation.

We need to get our priorities straight in this state – and that begins with making a robust investment in cradle to career public education.

Here's how we make Arizona competitive again by investing in comprehensive public education.

Guiding Principles for Education


1. It is the job of the state to ensure everyone within our borders has access to education, as a basic human right.

2. Public school education is part of the foundation for a healthy democracy – the best school for every child, in every neighborhood, in every county of Arizona should be the local district public school.

3. Cradle to career public education is key to a robust economy that works for everyone.

4. Funding education is a responsibility that all Arizonans share.

5. Public funds should fund public – not private or for-profit – schools.


Key Proposals*


1. Identify and secure adequate, sustainable revenue sources for cradle to career public education.

I’m not going to pull any punches here. Just tweaking the state budget isn’t nearly enough to reverse the decades of tax cuts that have been given to the wealthiest Arizonans and big corporations, which have resulted in draining our state budget of $4 billion each year. In order to ensure that a radical minority of Arizona legislators cannot hold our public school system hostage in the future, Arizona voters must overturn Prop 108, so that our legislature can pass tax increases for education with a simple majority vote. We must begin reversing those tax cuts and create new revenue streams to help our state meet our responsibilities, finally get out of “last place” in funding for education and create a world class educational system that includes early childhood education, all-day kindergarten, expanded arts programing, expanded Career and Technical Education, expanded special ed and gifted programs, and debt-free college & university.

Our first priority must be to reverse the reckless tax cuts that have been passed by the Arizona state legislature over the last several decades. Together, these actions will create $2.35B to $3.35B in additional annual revenue:

  • Reverse the cuts made to the Arizona state income tax – I support the Invest in Ed ballot initiative, which will reverse cuts made 40 years ago by creating  two new state income tax brackets for individuals whose federally adjusted gross income is more than a quarter of a million dollars a year (or couples whose income is more than $500,000 a year). Currently people who make $50,000 pay roughly the same percentage of their income in state income tax as those who make $5 million. The top bracket is about the same as it was in 1933 and it is one of the lowest in the nation. This ballot initiative would raise $700M in new revenue for education, which is a good start…but not enough to get pay for teachers and support staff to the U.S. median or fund critical new cradle to career educational programs.
  • Reverse the 2013 capital gains tax cuts. This irresponsible tax cut was passed by the Arizona state legislature at a time when Arizona was still reeling from the 2008 Recession. The cut drained $500M from our state budget almost overnight.
  • Reverse the tax cuts for people who send their children to private schools.  I will vote NO  on Prop 305, which will be on the ballot this November. Prop 305 seeks to expand the voucher system. We need to do more than just stop Prop 305, though. We need to end the voucher system for private schools. Most vouchers benefit wealthy families who can afford private school tuition and they drain $150M a year away from public schools.
  • Reverse the unfair sales tax exemptions that have been carved out for wealthy special interest groups and huge corporate interests. I oppose the ballot initiative that will prevent the legislature from taxing services. There are a lot of sales tax exemptions that make sense, like those for food, medicine, healthcare supplies, and the kinds of services that are mainly offered by locally owned small business owners whose customers are working poor or middle class families. Those exemptions that favor the already wealthy and huge corporate interests, however, hurt the rest of us. Taxing management consulting services, financial investment activities and securities brokerage, sales of items to nonresidents for use outside the state (including fine art), and exemptions that have been carved out for big utilities and corporations (like 4″ pipes) will create an est. $500M-$1B in new revenue.
  • Reverse the 1% cap on property tax and create a state tax on winter homes. This will also require a ballot initiative, but Arizona has one of the lowest effective property tax rates in the nation – we’re ranked #39 – and the cap has been made “permanent” in our constitution. Let’s reverse that and add a state tax on homes assessed at more than $1M that will bring us to the median effective tax rate in the nation. Those who benefit the most from our low property tax rates, though, are winter visitors. We have the most beautiful state in the nation – but it’s a steal right now and our winter visitors know it. Let’s simply ask them to pay what it’s worth to live part of the year in our state. Est. $650M-$1B in new revenue.

“It sounds like you’re just taxing the wealthy. Is that true?” Well, yes.  I’m asking those who have benefitted from decades of  tax cuts to help us meet the challenges that those tax cuts have caused. 

Many of Arizona’s wealthiest citizens have been saying “enough!” for years. These folks know that you can’t run a business if you don’t have enough revenue coming in – and you can’t run a state without revenue, either. I believe most of them want to be good stewards of their wealth. They know the system is unfair right now. They know it’s hurting teachers and kids. They love Arizona and want everyone in our state to have an opportunity to thrive. This plan gives them an opportunity to create real change in Arizona and put us on course to a sustainable future.

Additional sources of revenue for the expansion of public education include legalizing and taxing marijuana, increasing taxes on recreation and tourism, adding sales tax to luxury items and services, and ending the practice of giving tax credits to fund for-profit charter schools.

2. Pay and treat teachers as professionals.

Arizona teachers are asking for a 20% pay increase. We need to meet that demand immediately. But even that will not change Arizona’s status as one of the lowest paying states for teachers. My commitment is that our teachers will be paid at or above the median pay for teachers in this country by 2020. We’ll also cutback our dependence on for-profit standardized testing, give teachers a flexible curriculum, and invest in their professional development, which will unleash their creativity and inject renewed joy in their vocation, which will in turn produce students with better critical thinking skills and more creativity. Paying and treating our teachers like the professionals they are will reduce the flow of teachers out of state, and enable us to recruit and retain great talent.

3. Eliminate inequity in school funding.

We will raise the base funding for operations and capital maintenance, and revise the funding formula, so that rural schools and schools in low-income communities are not at a disadvantage. And we will end the practice of performance based funding. In 2014-15, half of Arizona students attending college graduated from just 11% of Arizona high schools, and 33 Arizona high schools didn’t send a single student to college anywhere. The schools that are underperforming need more investment, not less, and we will work hard to close the achievement gap.

4. Make post-secondary and higher education accessible and affordable for all Arizona residents.

The economic well being of our state depends on having a well-trained, well-educated workforce. We will expand vocational-technical programs, and make community college and state university education as close to free and 100% debt-free for all Arizona residents. New revenue (see above) combined with controlling administrative costs, will fund these priorities. In order to ensure pro-education reform in our state university system, pro-public education appointments will be made (as the opportunities arise) to the Arizona Board of Regents. New appointments will look like the opposite of current ABOR President Eileen Klein, who brags that compared to peer universities, Arizona’s public universities employ fewer full-time faculty per student, and that our universities spend less per student now than they did in 2008 and 21% below the average cost for all four-year public research universities. The economic impact of our higher learning institutions is $11 billion per year. This is an investment that just makes good economic sense.

5. Make charter schools accountable, transparent and rare.

I’m a mom. I understand wanting to give your child the best education you can afford – but why can’t “the best” be your local, district public school?  Unlike all of the other candidates in this race, I reject the idea that charter schools are the future of education in Arizona and I remain 100% committed to local, district schools. Charter schools emerged to meet the needs of the relatively few children who couldn’t be served well by their district school. For-profit companies have swept in to take advantage of the system and our legislators (some of whom are profiting financially from this) began taking money away from our district schools to pay for charter schools. They made the rules different  – and easier – for charter schools, too. Now, big charter school companies are making bank, while our district schools are starving for funds. There is lots of evidence that many charter schools are cheating children and families out of the good education they were promised. This needs to end. One of the first things I will do, as governor, is to create standards for charter schools, evaluate them according to those standards, and make them play by the same rules as district schools. In the meantime, we’ll provide the support and funding our district schools need to provide the best possible education for every child in Arizona and, in the end, they’ll put most charter schools out of business.

6. Prepare every student to succeed in a global marketplace by encouraging bilingualism.  Research shows that bilingual education improves overall academic performance and graduation rates. Also, English language learners become more proficient in both languages when they are supported in their native language. Mono-lingual students whose native language is English should be encouraged to become proficient in at least one additional language.

* Many things have happened since I put out my first policy proposals in February, including the effort by Save our Schools Arizona to get Prop 305 on the ballot, the Red for Ed movement and the Invest in Ed ballot initiative. The main thrust of my proposals has not changed, but some of the details have been revised to reflect these new developments. This update was published on July 5th.


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Learn more about Kelly's vision for Arizona.