Arizona funding for education is “a burning, heaping mess.” And, that’s the description applied by a Republican. State Treasurer (soon to be Trump’s head of NASA) Steve DeWit “compared the status of Prop. 123 to telling a person who was hand-building an airplane that the plane will crash, and then watching that person crash the plane shortly after takeoff.” He opposed Ducey’s doomed plan from the beginning.
Meanwhile, Flagstaff is losing a premier science teacher and Coconino County Teacher of the Year because he’s fed up with Arizona’s low funding for schools.
Here’s a brief review where we are under Governor Ducey’s leadership and the tragic lack of functionality of our Republican-dominated legislature:
Proposition 301 was passed by voters in November 2000. Among other things, Prop 301 increased the state sales tax from 5.0% to 5.6%, dedicating the increased revenues to public education. There was a serious question as to whether the legislature would renew the sales tax, which was set to expire in 2021. But under pressure from teachers who are marching again today and with the example of the statewide teacher’s strike in West Virginia fresh in their minds, Republicans did approve the extension. Which brings us back from the edge of a funding cliff, but does nothing to improve our situation — a situation which has us fighting for 49th place in the rank of states with poor education.
Arizona school funding is still below 2008 levels and our elementary teachers are the worst paid in the nation. Governor Ducey and Republicans who control the legislature have done nothing to fix Arizona’s teacher shortage or reduce class sizes. Instead, they are hellbent on the road to cutting corporate taxes again. Corporate tax collections were $663 million in 2015. By 2020, when the 2011 tax cuts are fully phased in, they’re expected to fall to $263 million. But this season, the Republicans are moving bills to cut even more.
Meanwhile, the state is now investing $924 less per student, when adjusted for inflation, than it did a decade ago, according to legislative budget analysts.
Oh, wait, there was Prop 1-2-3. That was Ducey’s shrewd plan to give teacher’s 77 percent of what they were owed to settle a lawsuit they had won against the state. Teachers were so desperate, they accepted the settlement. But now the rug has been pulled out from under even this by a little technicality — the Arizona Constitution. Ducey could have seen that coming but didn’t — or didn’t care.
It’s time to save Arizona’s schools. November 6 is not that far away. We can elect a Governor who cares and a legislature who will shift priorities to education. Let’s get to work.