opinion

Let’s get High: Legal Marijuana and the Fight for Arizona Schools

On Thursday, April 26th, the teachers in Arizona are planning a state-wide walkout. They have had enough of low pay, ignored support staff, and crumbling buildings. Their textbooks, and their classrooms, are falling apart. Currently, teachers in the state have seen a 12% decrease in pay over the last ten years. Every state-funded area has been funded to reach pre-recession levels. Except for education. So far, Governor Doug Ducey has done nothing more than throw out a lame attempt at a cease-fire. His compromise was met with increased derision. Locked in a game of chicken over the conditions of education in Arizona, the teachers prepare to strike. Legalizing the recreational use of marijuana might solve these problems. 

School Bus Background

Currently, the sales tax on legalized marijuana helps to fund public education in the states of California, Oregon, and Colorado (among others). In 2015, critics warned that Colorado was getting their hopes up that the sales tax from recreational marijuana use would make a difference in the problem areas of crumbling school buildings, teacher pay, and classroom materials. These same critics warned that Colorado was setting itself up for failure. 

Fast forward to 2017, when the state of Colorado saw $300 million put into improving and building new school buildings, since the sales tax system for marijuana was approved by voters in 2012. Teacher pay has also increased, and public education is able to expend resources to improve the academic environment for their students – especially in underserved rural communities. 

aged and worn vintage photo of marijuana sign with palm trees

But would this work in Arizona? Based on a data fact sheet, legalizing recreational marijuana might just be the answer that legislators are looking for to solve their problems. Essentially, legalizing and taxing marijuana would create those extra funds that Ducey cannot seem to find. According to this fact sheet, by 2019 around “$38 million would be available to be distributed to schools” with $69.6 million being available by 2020. Out of these projected numbers, 40% of the funds would go directly to school districts and charter schools. Based on these findings, Arizona would be looking at a financial gain from the sale of recreational marijuana in the state – despite what critics are saying. 

Phoenix Arizona

The country waits and watches what will unfold this week in the state of Arizona. The teacher walkout is imminent and school districts are sending out letters and posting to social media, in an effort to warn parents of potential school closures. Governor Ducey will be forced to face the music of an educational shutdown. He may find a solution in a controversial recreational drug.

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