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Judge rules 'Invest in Ed' won't be on November ballot

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Posted at 5:30 PM, Jul 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-02 08:54:08-04

PHOENIX — A measure that was supposed to raise nearly a billion dollars for education in our state won't make it to the voters in November.

A superior court judge has ruled to remove the "Invest in Ed" initiative from the ballot for the second time in two years.

If passed, the initiative would have raised taxes on the top four percent of earners in Arizona to fund schools and teacher pay raises.

But instead, the judge ruled that the summary that would have appeared on the ballot was misleading.

The judge said some of the things missing were:

  • How funds would be distributed to staff and programs
  • That the marginal tax rate would significantly increase for those affected by the tax
  • State legislature would be banned from considering money raised through this tax when distributing other funds for education
  • Paid petition circulators were given "improper bonuses"

The judge had harsh words for Invest in Ed organizers, who gathered more than 435,000 signatures to get the initiative on the ballot.

“The unfortunate victims in this case are Arizona’s teachers and students,” wrote Maricopa Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury. “The Court commends Arizona’s teachers for their hard-work, dedication and care for Arizona’s students, who are the future of our state. Defendant Invest in Education, quite simply, let Arizona’s teachers down for the second time since 2018.”

Two years ago, education organizers gathered signatures and submitted a different version of the Invest in Ed initiative. Then, like now, opponents of the measure argued the summary was misleading, and the Arizona Supreme Court agreed, removing the measure from the ballot. Judge Coury admonished education organizers for not learning the lessons of that case.

“Two years ago, the Arizona Supreme Court in Molera identified exactly how IIE could accomplish precisely what IIE seeks to accomplish,” the judge wrote. “Despite this extremely rare occurrence in Arizona jurisprudence, IIE disregarded this instruction and elected to craft the Initiative its own way.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman released the following statement on the ruling:

“As public schools start what will surely be their most difficult school year in recent history, this decision only emphasizes the need for leaders to provide diverse funding streams for our vastly under-resourced schools. I continue to call on the Arizona legislature for more secure school funding and Congress for additional relief dollars."

The group behind "Invest in Ed" is already vowing to appeal.