The Southern Arizona Leadership Council (SALC), the area’s key CEO and community leader group, today announced its board of directors recommends a “no” vote on Proposition 204, Strong Start Tucson, which will appear on the November 2017 city ballot.
“SALC carefully reviews every initiative to ensure it is the most effective and efficient way to achieve its goal, especially when it uses limited public resources,” said Ted Maxwell, president of SALC. “We find that Proposition 204, despite its good intentions, fails to meet that test.”
Throughout its 20-year history, SALC has been a champion for education in Arizona, taking a leadership role in passing a statewide early childhood initiative, Prop. 203, First Things First, or the Arizona Early Childhood Development and Health Initiative.
“SALC remains a staunch advocate for impactful funding and support for educating all the children of our region and state,” Maxwell added. “But Proposition 204 does not meet this goal and we urge voters to vote ‘no’.”
SALC cited specific issues with the Strong Start Tucson initiative:
- Poor governance structure – The Mayor and Council would form a commission to design the program and designate a non-profit agency to operate it, with the City having no direct authority over a program it is being required to fund.
- Lack of detailed program definition – With no specific guidelines, definitions or directives on the scholarship program itself in Prop. 204, the appointed commission will be responsible for creating specifics including eligibility, reimbursements, and provider standards.
- Eligibility limited to City residents only – Not a single school district would have complete eligibility coverage for its Pre-K students because all district boundaries are both inside and outside the City limits.
- Inability to meet demand – The initiative seeks to provide 8,500 children with tuition assistance for high-quality pre-kindergarten and raises $50 million yearly to do so. But that capacity of providers and early-education teachers does not exist today and would take years to develop if even possible.
- Inappropriate scale and tax burden –The proposed tax rate far exceeds, up to four times, those of similar programs in communities cited by the initiative. Additionally, the tax has no sunset or end date; it is permanent. When combined with the City’s sales tax increase earlier this year, passage of Prop 204 will result in a 50% increase in the City of Tucson sales tax rate in 2017.
- Passage jeopardizes other state and local priorities – Perhaps most important, increasing the sales tax burden in the City of Tucson makes it less likely that City voters would support upcoming public-investment needs of greater impact at the local, regional and state levels.