Bond and Override Fact vs. Fiction
The misinformation campaign around bonds, overrides, and budget continuations is in full swing. Don’t let the falsehoods distract you from supporting Arizona kids by returning your ballot by Oct. 31 with a YES vote.
The November 7, 2023 election may be considered an “off” election to some — but for Arizona’s local schools, this election is extremely critical. Across Arizona, local school districts have worked to put education measures on the ballot, typically called bonds, overrides, and budget continuations. Bonds and overrides are voter-approved initiatives that generate additional tax revenue to fund projects and operations for local school districts and community colleges. These measures are tools that our local communities can use to provide funds for their local schools above and beyond what the state provides. To see if your local school district is going out for a bond or override this election, check our handy Bond & Override website which is a one-stop-shop of information!
Normally, these measures are less contentious and earn widespread support — but this year, anti-public education groups have put up disingenuous “NO” signs on street corners and are spreading rampant misinformation.
With only one week to go until the mail-in-deadline (return your ballot in the mail by Oct. 31st — it must be received by Nov. 7th!), we wanted to take a moment to cut through the noise and dispel some common myths.
Keep reading to separate fact from fiction.
Fiction: “Bond and override funds will just be diverted to the ESA voucher program.”
Fact: No bond or override dollars will go to ESA vouchers; ESA vouchers are state funds and come out of an entirely different funding bucket.
School districts are funded by local, state, and federal funding. Students receiving ESA vouchers are funded through state dollars from the state general fund decided upon by the legislature each year; local dollars come from property taxes and never leave the local community.
Fiction: “Passing bonds and overrides will raise property taxes.”
Fact: Most of these measures continue previous tax increases and taxpayers will see no increases; others will see minute increases.
Most districts are seeking continuations of past bonds and overrides approved by voters, and therefore will not increase taxes. At most, some measures will cost around $100 a year — or a cup of coffee each month to ensure local students are safe, learning and thriving in their community schools.
Fiction: “More school funding won’t make any difference.”
Fact: Funding matters.
A study published at the beginning of this year by the MIT Journal of Education, Finance, and Policy found that funding has a dramatic impact on student achievement. This study found that increases in funding corresponded with a reduction in the number of underperforming students at an almost one-to-one ratio. Their analysis found that a 20 percent increase in per-pupil funding for underperforming schools reduced the number of below-average students in mathematics, English, social studies, and science by 16-20% compared with the control.
An upcoming paper by noted education researcher Eric Hanushek finds similar results: more funding leads to students staying in school longer and scoring higher on standardized testing. This is especially notable considering that Hanushek spent the last few decades arguing the opposite and has changed his mind based on overwhelming data.
Fiction: “Districts are sitting on COVID relief dollars and don’t need more funding.”
Fact: COVID relief dollars have already been spent on learning loss mitigation.
The bulk of federal COVID relief funding expired at the end of September, and districts must spend all of the remaining COVID relief dollars by the end of September 2024. Mesa Public Schools, the largest school district in the state, only has $28 million remaining and is on track to disperse all of the funds by the end of the year. Many districts across the state have relied on these additional federal dollars to bolster staff salaries and provide essential mental health services to teachers. Override funds can help districts bridge the gap to continue these critical services as federal dollars dry up.
Fiction: “All of the money will just go to administration.”
Fact: Arizona school districts spend a majority of funding directly on instruction
According to Arizona’s Auditor General’s School Finance Analysis, the vast majority of AZ school districts spend only 10% of their budget on administrative costs (which is lower than the national average) and spend more than 60% directly on classroom instruction. The remaining 30% is used for student support services, transportation, facilities, and building maintenance. Any large enterprise needs effective management and functioning facilities.
Fiction: “The election is rigged because everyone was sent a ballot”
Fact: Elections by mail are safe and secure.
Since 1991, Arizona law has allowed special taxing districts, including school districts, to conduct elections entirely by mail. This means that every eligible voter was automatically sent a ballot. State law does require counties to have in-person voting options in every special taxing district that is holding an election – anyone who has not already mailed back their ballot is able to vote a replacement ballot after October 30th.
Despite countless investigations from election deniers, there is no evidence of widespread or coordinated fraud in Arizona elections, by mail or otherwise.
Ballots Must Be Returned by Oct 31st
For more information on this year’s bond and override elections, click here. And don’t forget to mail back your ballot with a YES vote for AZ kids as soon as possible — an early return saves campaigns precious resources as they reach out to voters!