Teachers Parents Advocates United To Defeat Tax Increase Ballot Measure

As part of the #RedForEd “movement,” educators from across our state of Arizona walked out on our children, abandoning their classrooms, violating their publicly paid contracts, and destroyed public trust, for 6 days this spring.

Teachers and administrators effectively deprived our children of their right, outlined in Arizona’s Constitution, to FAPE (Fair and Appropriate Public Education). Our children were cheated of six days of educational growth while those teachers and administrators partied on the Capitol lawn or enjoyed Happy Hour at nearby pubs even after our Legislature and Governor Doug Ducey signed the “20 x 2020” bill, essentially giving AZ school districts $300 million over the next 2 years.

The “20 x 2020” bill was also passed after voters said “yes” to Proposition 301, Proposition 123,passed budget overrides and bond elections in districts across the state. More money is the mantra, and apparently these statewide and local efforts were not enough in the eyes of some educators and activists.

The History of #InvestInEd

Taken from an article in a publication called The Socialist Worker, is this information; “A number of activists from Arizona Educators United, which has been leading the organizing, attended the Labor Notes conference in Chicago earlier this month. Vanessa Arredondo-Aguierre, a second-grade teacher in Somerton in the southwest corner of the state; Rebecca Garelli, a seventh-grade math and science teacher in Phoenix and former member of the Chicago Teachers Union; and Dylan Wegela, a seventh-grade science teacher in Phoenix; talked with Lee Sustar about what’s at stake as the teachers continue their actions.”

In this same article, Rebecca Garelli, “a seventh-grade math and science teacher in Phoenix and former member of the Chicago Teachers Union,” according to The Socialist Worker, stated, “What’s happened is that you sign up to be a teacher, and you end up being an activist. That’s just the nature of our job now, because all we do is fight and fight and fight. You’re not a teacher anymore, you’re an activist.”

It all started with a tweet

Noah Karvelis, who according to his curriculum vitae, focuses on “Critical Pedagogy, Critical Social Theory, and Hip-Hop Studies,” is currently a music teacher at Tres Rio Elementary in the Littleton Elementary School District.

Karvelis asked Arizona Education Association (AEA) President Joe Thomas “when are we going on strike?” Thomas responded, “Don’t wait for me,” so Noah started #RedForEd, and Rebecca created Arizona Teachers United, and we merged the two into Arizona Educators United (AEU), and that was that,” according to The Socialist Worker article.

On the second day of the teacher strike, educators coalesced around #InvestInEd. They immediately began gathering petition signatures to secure a spot on the November General Election ballot for the #InvestForEd measure that, if passed, will raise income taxes on businesses and private citizens.

Under the #InvestForEd scheme, the tax increases will break down like this:

  • Individuals who earn more than $250,000 a year and households that earn more than $500,000 will see their new tax rate become 8% percent, which is a 76% increase above the current rate of 4.54%.
  • Individuals who earn more than $500,000 and households that earn more than $1 million will see their top rate become 9%, which is a 98% increase above their current rate of 4.54%.

In other words, under current law, someone with a taxable income of $600,000 pays $25,162. That same individual would pay $14,200 more if the measure is adopted. The Invest in Education Committee says that the measure will raise $690 million annually and will apply to less than 1 percent of Arizona households.

Is this a clear case of “targeting” a “certain demographic of our citizens in Arizona based simply on their taxable income”?

“Targeting” our economic structure

Is it fair to expect Arizona’s top 1% of tax paying citizens to have their income taxes nearly double in one fell swoop of the voting booth? Some may say this is evil-eyed and heavy-handed by the very public servants we trust to educate our children. In this quote by Rebecca Garelli, in The Socialist Worker article, we get a glimpse into the mind of the true intention of this “movement:”

“What’s happened is that you sign up to be a teacher, and you end up being an activist. That’s just the nature of our job now, because all we do is fight and fight and fight. You’re not a teacher anymore, you’re an activist.”

On July 5, 2018 Center for Economic Progress Director David Lujan, union leaders from, AEA, AEU, Joshua Buckley, chairman of the Invest in Ed committee and president of the Mesa Education Association (MEA), announced that they collected 270,000 signatures — more than the required 150,642. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce spoke out against the proposal less than an hour after it was filed with the Secretary of State’s Office.

Arizonans for Great Schools and a Strong Economy chairman, Jaime Molera, joined forces with the Chamber and work began to examine every petition. Molera is a previous Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction and creator of Proposition 301 which was approved by voters in 2000.

Interestingly enough, as we examined petitions for critical errors, it was becoming increasingly clear to us that the leaders of the Invest in Education “movement” were sloppy and overestimated the number of signatures submitted. One of the grave errors we discovered involved a box in the upper corner of each petition. Arizona law requires this box must be hand checked to acknowledge if the petitioner is PAID or VOLUNTEER and almost every petition had a typed-in X in the box.

Examiners also found petitioners who hadn’t filled in the county for their petition, or had pre-filled dates and addresses in the same handwriting but with different signatures. We also found notaries whose stamp or handwriting was illegible or the date they stamped their seal on the petition, did not correlate with the dates of signatures. We found notaries who only became certified the month before, which is not a violation but was certainly suspect. This “cause” was so important to them, but not enough to take the time to train their petitioners. Many petitioners were paid and from out of state; not even registered to vote in Arizona. However, as long as a petitioner is eligible to vote (not a felon), they may qualify to gather signatures and get paid for it.

Noah Karvelis collected signatures for the #InvestInEd effort. Harris provided notary services.

Judicial overreach

Finding what we found and knowing that the actual verbiage explaining the measure on each petition was misleading, attorneys for the Chamber filed a lawsuit with the Maricopa County Superior Court. The intention is to disallow the Invest in Education Act from making it onto the ballot for the November 6, 2018, election.

“I am confident that the judicial system will find the proponents’ work sloppy and misleading and will remove the initiative from the ballot,” Molera said earlier this month. “But, if for some reason we must continue this campaign through the fall, this poll confirms that public opinion is on our side and that a near doubling of the income tax rate will be rejected by voters. The drafters of this initiative were either sloppy or deceptive,” Molera said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we now must go to court to ensure that this poorly drafted, misleading initiative does not appear on the November ballot.”

On the afternoon of August 16, 2018, Judge Smith of Maricopa County Superior Court, ruled to allow the “Invest in Education Act” on the November ballot. This ruling is a clear example of judicial over-reach or a violation of the Separation of Powers doctrine as there exists no current legal challenge to the codes or regulations for ballot proposal signature gathering.

Judge Smith’s ruling basically says, strict compliance to the laws regulating ballot initiative signature gathering are restrictive to the rights of the Arizona electorate and, since these laws/codes/regulations are not currently being challenged as to their Constitutionality, he wished to not enforce strict compliance at this time.

Judge Smith is interfering with the statutory authority of the executive branch of AZ government, most particularly the Office of the Secretary of State. Regardless of whether one is for or against the “Invest in Education Act”, we need to be cautious whenever a member of the judicial branch interferes with the statutory authorities granted to another branch of government. Generally, authorities will presume a statute, code, or regulation is Constitutional unless a claimant is able to make a valid argument to the contrary. To do so is a classic definition of “judicial activism” as the court is, in essence, rewriting the implementing regulation while no challenge to the regulation was made in this case. This is NOT something neither the appellate court nor the AZ Supreme Court should countenance. At this time, the case moves to the appellate court and we wait to see while our good friends of liberty continue fighting for the people of Arizona.

Related articles:

#RedForEd Ready to Tax the Wealthiest, Submits Signatures for Ballot Measure

Ballot measure to tax the rich for K-12 funding launched

How The Arizona Teachers Got Organized

About Jennifer Leon Hill 6 Articles
Jennifer Leon Hill is an education activist in Arizona. She frequently shares her experience in education on the pages of the Arizona Daily Independent. Ms. Leon Hill is the founder of Teachers Parents Advocates United (TPAU).


  1. Taxpayer,

    I did a huge study awhile back on Arizona education and spending outcomes using the Ariz. Dept. of Education’s own databases.

    You are correct, TUSD pays better than most districts in the area, but has worse outcomes. Some Tucson-area districts even have relatively inexperienced teachers but do better than those with more experience.

    But the greatest paradox I discovered was between Thatcher and Safford, which are culturally and demographically similar and about 4 miles apart. Safford pays its teachers $18,000 more per year on average than Thatcher and yet had far worse student outcomes. Thatcher’s students far exceeded the statewide AZMerit scores while Safford was below the state average in English and just above the state average in math.

    And if money spent per student was the sole factor in educational outcomes, the students in Indian country would be extremely high performers. Sadly, that’s not generally the case.

  2. Mario, back in your days teachers had EXPECTATIONS. No more – everyone is taught to the lowest IQ level so NO ONE FEELS BAD. The dumbing down of America has happened over 60 years of “for the children” more $$$ and unionization of teachers. My classes were at least 30 kids and we learned because our teachers pounded us over and over until we did. No social (feel good) promotion. Reading, writing & arithmetic is what we learned. Our teachers were respected because they ACTED like teachers NOT students. They also dressed appropriately unlike the casual dress today where I can’t tell students from teacher. Smaller classes merely means more teachers and more union members.

  3. I applaud “Red For Ed” We need teachers and they need to be better compensated and respected as the true professionals that they are. Something is wrong when it takes 4 years for an engineer to get a degree same as a teacher. An engineer’s starting salary is $80,000 plus, a teachers $30,000 and they need to continue their education, engineers do not.I’m over 75 years old, I still remember most of my elementary teachers, they were great, they went over and above their call of duty to try to educate us. I attended poverty stricken schools, we were not supposed to learn, but our teachers didn’t believe that. KUDOS to our teachers and their movement(s) for better working conditions. Now is the time to make amends to to our heroes (the public school teachers) for past inequities.

  4. teachers have known for many many years – pay not so great, public system. Why did they get that degree and job? Let supply and demand move that market. When contracts are due, don’t sign, that simple. I do not support this action, but understand that teachers like to make more money. Don’t sign the contract, get another job, do something else,… work in Chicago.. whatever, but this action and implied ‘contribution’ is nothing more than a shakedown of a target part of the population -(I’m not one of) which is WRONG

  5. I hate to say it but it really doesn’t matter how much people fight against this. All they have to say is that it’s for the kids and it will pass whether we want it to or not.

      • The problem is that everytime a tax has been proposed on the ballot for the “kids education” the bill passes because it’s for the children. I don’t like it either and I will vote against it but it’s going to happen

  6. Other than California; that would position
    AZ income tax rates higher than all
    the surrounding states. [for high income

    Any calculation of how many high
    income, particularly retirees who
    fled high tax states to retire in
    AZ, will flee to a lower tax
    neighbor state?

    Looking at statistics, it is clear
    that money is NOT a primary driver of
    quality educational outcomes.

    Otherwise we would all prefer our
    students to matriculate in Tucson U.S.D.
    instead of Catalina Foothills S.D. as it
    “spends” considerably more per student.

    A recent A.D.I. article chart shows that the
    average T.U.S.D. teacher salary was about $8,000.
    higher than that of a Catalina Foothills teacher.
    [~50K vs. 42K]

    Yes, this may be a stark example of an inverse
    relationship between spending and outcomes; but
    importantly it highlights that HOW the money is
    spent is a more critical component in school

    Parental/ Educator expectations for
    learning are certainly at the top of the
    relevant metrics.

    How many students graduating from AZ High
    Schools are functionally illiterate? Way
    too many. And that’s the graduates- not even
    the dropouts. This is an indication of
    low expectations and “dumping” kids from
    one grade to the next in order, allegedly,
    simply to continue to receive the money
    allocated based on average daily attendance.

  7. Whatever one thinks about taxing the top 1% more, these soak-the-rich tax measures failed to raise anywhere near the expected revenue in every other state that’s tried it, like Oregon and Maryland. People that wealthy can relocate to another state, and will in many cases. So then you don’t even get the tax revenue you formerly received from them.

    In Arizona’s case that 20% teacher’s pay raise will wind up being fully paid for by one of three ways:

    1. More state trust land sales (OK by me)
    2. Sales tax increase (we’re just under 10% in Tucson as it is)
    3. Income tax hike for middle class (they work too hard already and most make less than teachers and don’t have as much time off or as cushy a retirement plan).

  8. What is hilarious about you dummies is that you do not understand that this is polling better amongst conservatives. The AEA/NEA would have never run with it with out an extreme likelihood it would succeed. Like Jan Brewer said Ducey and his corrupt gnomes in the AZ legislature woke a monster. Keep talking shit about teachers, we want that because those deceit folks are going to turn away from your 1950s mindset. Welcome to the minority. Enjoy your crappy charter school careers.

  9. More misinformation to the public.Just like the Ducey commercials….Welcome to corporate education and teacher hate.I am a conservative.I saw where my representatives stand last May.Not for my students, not for their respurce teachers or counselors.Fill the state with charters, buy up the land…It is of no help to the working parents who can’t leave their neighborhoods.Why can’t public school haters get involved with school boards instead of bashing?I just spent 7 hours with children who have serious needs, who qualify for free lunch, who I buy supplies for….I can’t deal with this.A top 3 percenters small tax contribution with InvestinEd is nothing compared to what my peers and I give.Get over it and help where needed.

    • and you are to be commended, but you also need to INFORM folks that you get a tax credit for the supplies and are also REIMBURSED for purchasing them also. Teachers brought on corporate education by FAILING in their jobs. Teaching BS instead of the basics. Most students cannot read,write, or carry on an effective/articulate conversation. Dont even ask them to do any simple math. The push to have everyone be a college student and or graduate failed many and caused them to seek other things in life. Thus the druggies, the pushers and the uneducated that fill the streets. AS a result the corporations saw an easy meal ticket at the public trough, promise results with unending failures and then blame all on the kids who dont have a clue since the teachers dont really teach and the parents dont seem to care in most instances.

      During an emergency drill I asked a ‘teacher’ how many kids does he have and the response was “I dont know I am just a substitute’. And this is what is supposedly teaching the kids and the ‘teachers’ call in and then dont do any better.

      Oh sure there are some that care and take pride, but they are lost in the dust of the others and it is compounded when the parents done parent! If parents stood up for their kids, helped them at home, set standards that DO NOT include computer games and other worthless activities and the teachers taught, just think of where we could go. How did we get to be the country we were without the internet, the laptops, iphones etc only to be where we are now? Think about it. There was an old saw that might be just as true now as it was 50 years or so ago. Those that can do, those that cant teach.

      • Do have any data to support your contentions? What is your highest level of education? How much teaching have you done? Do you believe you get what you pay for? Are you communist and believe teachers should work free for the state?

        • My UA degree was in education, no never a teacher teacher, but I was an instructor in the military. I took military classes on how to teach so yes I am able to say all that with a straight face. When my kids were in school there was a requirement to bring papers home for me to see. My son brought papers home with HAPPY FACES and WRONG answers. I scheduled a meeting with his teacher and asked what was going on. Her excuse was that it was a ‘substitute’ and she was having a hard time with personal issues and so on. I told her I would not tolerate such stuff and would go to the principle next time it happened. It never did. Parental involvement. No in general YOU DONT get what you pay for. Poor customer relations, people that cant make change (remember when they put pictures on the cash registers so that they could just push a button instead of enter a sum? Went into a place the other day ordered 2 items, was charged for 1 and then when I queried about the 2 item was told that it was the same as the 1st with no new ring up for the product. Did the store get what it was paying for there? Did you know and it still may be true in some instances that the OLD TRAINING and operator MANUALS in the military were set to a 6th grade education level and the people still had a hard time with them?

          No I am not a communist, I am a realist in that the education of the kids has gotten worse instead of better. teachers should be paid a wage that is competitive, BUT they should also be COMPETENT in how they do their jobs. Many are but there are many who are not. I work around kids everyday, and I get to listen to them. If you havent go out and try to talk with them and carry on a conversation. But from your response I think you are exactly one of the ones I am speaking of and have a guilty conscience for being so and called out for it. Have a nice day.

    • not for their “respurce” teachers or counselors. As in ‘responsible’ because they are not.. they walked out on their contract, the abandon their responsibility.

      A top 3 percenters small tax contribution with InvestinEd is nothing compared to what my peers and I give. “CONTRIBUTION” it’s not – it’s a CONFISCATION and Wealth Distribution scheme – if it were passed how long till the next “contribution” is “Demanded” as this one is? NYET! There is a time to contract, as well as strike if that is what labor has decided, this REDFORED was and is illegal. Fire all that participated – Go work in Chicago.

  10. Sign up for teaching and you become an activist. No wonder our grade schools & on up are churning out socialist. So glad my grandson chose to go into the military instead of directly to college upon HS graduation. If he chooses to go to college he will be well grounded in discipline and how great this country is. His gramma has done a pretty good job on teaching him also.

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