Students rally downtown for Proposition 100

 
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Flagstaff residents and NAU students hold up signs in front of city hall supporting Proposition 100. The ballot measure would impose a 1-percent tax increase, which would go toward education and public safety.

Wearing light-blue T-shirts that read, “I’m a student and I vote!” a group of about 30 students marched from the University Union to Flagstaff City Hall on April 9 to show their support for ballot Proposition 100 — a 1-percent sales tax increase that would fund education and other services.

In front of city hall, students and other community members held up signs to passing cars, often getting honks of support, and occasionally responses of disapproval, from motorists passing by.

Lauren Talkington, board secretary of the Arizona Student Association (ASA), said if Prop. 100 fails, tuition will rise rapidly.

“The bad news is that if it doesn’t get passed, there is going to be a huge decrease in state funding,” Talkington said. “There could be upwards of a $1,000 increase in tuition, and along with that, there would be staff shortages, professor shortages and more furloughs — basically, a worst-case scenario.”

Talkington said the potential cuts, which could be up to $150 million, would devastate higher education. In his forum held April 6, NAU President John Haeger said the failure of Prop. 100, coupled with low enrollment, would result in a 10-percent cut in state funding and a $27 million deficit for the university.

Alumna Ali Smart holds up a hand-painted protest sign for Prop. 100 April 9 on the lawn of city hall. Janelle Cordova / The Lumberjack

“To put this in perspective, NAU operates off a $300 million budget,” Talkington said. “So, you could essentially have NAU gone. Obviously, ASU and UA would pick up some of the gap, but it’s not a nice circumstance to be in. I think the Arizona state legislature has made its priorities very clear with the budget. Arizona, as a state, has not looked favorably on education.”

Colin Magana, a freshman economics major, said he came to show support for public services in his state.

“I feel that education and public safety are two very important things,” Magana said. “‘No Child Left Behind’ really just doesn’t cover it anymore, and I think something like this is really important to support.”

Magana said the responses from drivers were mostly positive, with people honking and waving at the demonstrators. He also said some people were willing to display their disapproval.

“We’ve gotten a couple of thumbs down; we’ve gotten flipped off a couple of times,” Magana said. “It happens. Otherwise, I think it’s going pretty well.”

Jackson McKinney, a local resident who rode his bicycle past the students, said he had doubts about whether the proposition would solve more problems than it could create.

“It will hurt jobs, and it will hurt my personal finances,” McKinney said. “A 1-percent sales tax isn’t going to affect funding to schools enough to make a difference. People are still going to have student loans to pay off.”

Although she emphasized she knew little about the details of the economics behind the budget, Talkington said she did know the value of education at all levels.

“If this doesn’t pass, I think that our economy will be far worse off,” Talkington said. “Obviously, education is what makes the world go around. If we want Arizona to have an economy in the future, we’re going to need education.”

McKinney said students should work to create positive change in their lives instead of holding rallies.

“Honestly, if they got all the people who were going to vote ‘yes,’ and instead of protesting, they went to work for a day,” McKinney said, “it would be worth more than protesting.”

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