As the year winds down and Arizona families enjoy fall weather, many parents are turning their attention to the Nov. 3 election. The top of the ticket has gotten plenty of attention, as is always the case during a presidential election year. But the candidates farther down the ballot may impact your child’s education most.
Do you know what your local school board controls? Or what the county superintendent does? What about the difference between a bond and an override? Keeping schools running is complex and takes input from many levels of government. Here’s a quick overview of how state and local elected officials affect Arizona education.
At the state level
Arizona’s state legislators work in conjunction with the governor to budget state money for schools and create laws that govern how schools operate. The governor also appoints members to a number of boards, including the State Board of Education and the Board of Regents.
The Arizona State House of Representatives is the lower house of the legislature, and is made up of 60 representatives, two from each of Arizona’s 30 legislative districts. The term of office is two years.
The Arizona State Senate is the upper house of the Legislature, made up of 30 senators, one from each of Arizona’s 30 legislative districts. The term of office also is two years.
Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction is a statewide elected position. This individual is responsible for distributing school funding and executing policies set by the State Board of Education. The superintendent also oversees teacher certification.
Our current superintendent of public instruction is Kathy Hoffman, who was sworn into a four-year term of office in January 2019.
Referendums and initiatives have impacted school funding in the past. (Proposition 301, for example, was a voter-approved initiative passed in 2000 to provide millions of dollars in annual education funding. Originally set to expire in 2021, legislation in 2018 extended it to 2041.)
The 2020 ballot will include two ballot propositions that were referred by the voters. This year, Proposition 208 (Invest in Ed) will allow voters to decide whether to create a new funding stream for Arizona schools. The proposition would increase the income tax on individuals earning more than $250,000 and households earning more than $500,000 and distribute the resulting revenue to teacher salaries, schools, and education programs. (The second proposition seeks to legalize marijuana for personal use.)
At the county level
County superintendents aid schools on everything from staff development to technology that can elevate student learning. County superintendent offices support district governing board elections and bond and override elections. When there is an unfilled seat on a district governing board, the county superintendent makes an appointment to fill that seat. The county superintendent also has a role in school finance, and maintainst homeschool and private school records.
While most parents know that K-12 districts have governing boards, many are unaware that the state’s community college districts also have governing boards. These boards make decisions related to tuition and college policies, and they hire the presidents that run community colleges.
At the district level
School district governing boards have seen more attention in 2020 than ever. These positions play a huge role in local school districts, as they hire the superintendent, approve the budget, set salaries for employees, approve curriculum materials, adopt the school calendar and much, much more.
Also at the school district level, bonds and overrides are two ways that districts can secure additional funding for everything from technology to building repairs. These voter-approved measures have become more important than ever.
With nearly 4 million voters in Arizona, you might wonder if you really need to go to the polls. But during the 2018 election, only 65 percent of voters cast a ballot. And only 36 percent of eligible voters participated in the most recent primary election. Margins between winning and losing can be small, especially for local district elections for school board candidates or local bond and override measures.
Ballots can be overwhelming, but getting prepared can help. Take the time to research the issues and get to know the candidates, from the top of the ballot all the way to the bottom. Elect people who share your values and prioritize Arizona’s children. Don’t leave your vote on the table. Cast a ballot and make your voice heard.
Visit expectmorearizona.org/vote to find everything from candidate contact tools and voter guides from organizations all over the state to background on statewide ballot measures and a list of bonds and overrides in every Arizona county.