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States Testing Tax Increases for Education at the Ballot Box

Given tight budgets and failing performance of public schools, it isn’t hard to see why education has been a hot topic over the past few years. Now the Wall Street Journal reports that it may soon get even hotter. Five states—Arizona, Missouri, South Dakota, California and Oregon—are currently debating ballot initiatives to raise taxes to pay for public schools. The measures have been controversial, and both sides are preparing for a drawn-out fight:

State Treasurer Doug Ducey calls it a “terrible” initiative and “bad policy” that would hurt businesses and produce negligible educational gains. “It’s just pouring more money into the system and hoping that, magically, it fixes the problems in the classroom,” said Mr. Ducey, a Republican who heads a campaign to defeat the measure. His campaign has raised $1 million, he said, coming mostly from 501(c)4 groups that don’t have to disclose donors. . .

Ann-Eve Pedersen, who has an 11-year-old son in Tucson schools, said parents held fundraisers and went door-to-door to raise $40,000 for school supplies and a teaching position. “If this doesn’t pass, our schools are going to go off the cliff,” said Ms. Pedersen, who chairs the Quality Education and Jobs campaign, which has raised more than $1 million to back Proposition 204, including $300,000 from the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union.

So far, it isn’t clear which side will come out on top in each case. But other school districts around the country should be watching closely, as these initiatives will be the clearest indications yet how much of their governments’ dwindling resources they want to invest in education.

As we’ve noted before, parents around the country are pulling their children out of traditional public schools whenever they get the chance, and there’s mounting evidence that many parents are convinced that public schools don’t work (at least not for their kids). The question remains: How much, and how much longer, will they be willing to pay for it? We may soon find out.

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