Yee’s Stewardship Leads To More Arizonans Saving For Kids’ Education

Yee’s Stewardship Leads To More Arizonans Saving For Kids’ Education

By Daniel Stefanski |

More Arizonans are saving for their children’s education and benefiting from the stewardship of the state’s treasurer.

This week, the “X” account for the Arizona Education Savings Plan announced that “under the leadership of Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee, 33,632 529 accounts have been opened in the last 37 months,” and that “assets are up 16.6% in that same time frame to $1.89 billion.”

Yee serves as the Chairwoman of the AZ529 Plan Advisory Committee. According to its website, this committee “assists the Treasurer’s Office in promoting and raising awareness of the AZ529 Plan in accordance with A.R.S. § 41-179.” The Arizona 529 Plan “is a college savings plan named after Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code sponsored by the State of Arizona,” and “is designed to provide a parent, grandparent, or anyone else an opportunity to save for a child’s educational dreams within a tax-deferred savings vehicle.”

Last month, the Arizona Education Savings Plan was upgraded to a ‘silver’ rating by Morningstar, which “reflected a superior investment team and/or investment process that should benefit the participants.”

Joining Treasurer Yee on this advisory committee are the following appointees:

  • Rural Community College District Representative: Keith Alexander, Special Assistant to the President for Community and Government Relations, Eastern Arizona College
  • ABOR Public University Representative: Dr. James Rund, Senior Vice President for Educational Outreach and Student Services, Arizona State University
  • Private Educational Institution Offering Advanced Degrees Representative: Brian Mueller, President, Grand Canyon University
  • Private Vocational Training Institution Representative: David Eaker, Campus President, The Refrigeration School
  • Apprenticeship Program Representative: Gary Schleuger, Vice President of State Government Affairs and Relations, University of Phoenix
  • Private School or Organization offering K-12 Instruction Representative: Chris Schoenleb, Head of School, North Valley Christian Academy
  • Teacher Representative: Karen Mensing, Technology Integration Facilitator, Paradise Valley Unified School District
  • Tribal Representative: Honorable Shaandiin Parrish, Council Delegate, Navajo Nation
  • Public Member: Maria Baier, Vice President of External Affairs, Great Hearts America
  • Public Member: Christine Burton, Co-Founder, Burton Family Foundation
  • Public Member Representing an Arizona-Based Nonprofit Organization: Susan Ciardullo, Executive Director, Life Long Learning Inc.

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

More Bonds And Budget Overrides Will Not Solve Arizona’s Educational Problems

More Bonds And Budget Overrides Will Not Solve Arizona’s Educational Problems

By Nancy Cottle |

In November 2023, there will be 23 districts within Maricopa County that are asking voters to approve a new Bond Issue, Budget Override, or District Additional Assistance.

One of the constant themes from the Educational Industrial Complex is that schools are underfunded and teachers are woefully underpaid. However, in the Arizona state 2024 budget, 50% of the total budget is allocated to education which includes K-12 schools, community colleges, and universities.

According to the Arizona Joint Legislative Budget Committee, per student funding at the state, local, and federal levels in fiscal year 2024 is an estimated $14,673 per student. This is up from 2023 funding at $14,025 per student.  Contrast that with 2015 which was $9,124 per student.

To put the spending issue into perspective, Mesa Unified, the state’s largest district, is asking for an approval for $500 million in new bonds as well as a 15% budget override. However, the district has $182 million in unspent funds from the 2018 Bond initiative as well as $173 million in unspent COVID relief funds. Couple this with the $863 million the district will receive from the state in fiscal year 2024 and that’s roughly $1.2 billion dollars. Why is the district asking for more?

Despite this funding, the academic achievement for Mesa schools districtwide is abysmal. In 2022, only 38% of students were proficient or highly proficient at English Language arts, and only 31% of students are proficient or highly proficient at math.  In addition, the 2022 graduation rate was 76%.

Some might argue that the recent steep inflation devalues the increased education spending by the legislature.  But this is a two-way street. After all, taxpayers are also subject to inflation and asking them to keep increasing funding for an obviously broken system is not sustainable.

Finally, history shows that Mesa taxpayers are not anti-education. In 2018, they passed a $300 million dollar bond to increase funding.  Fast forward to 2023 and the financial picture for Mesa schools is much healthier.  Why are they asking for more money despite the fact that academic scores have remained flat for the last four years? The answer is not additional funding.

Enough is enough. The people of Arizona should reject all bond and override initiatives.

Nancy Cottle is a longtime East Mesa community resident. You can follow her on X here.