After Prop. 123, ‘we don’t get fooled again’

You can smell desperation coming from the governor’s office on the ninth floor.

Last year Gov. Ducey’s budget gave teachers a 2 percent raise over five years, or put another way, they would get a four-tenths of a percent raise per year over five years.

The legislature eventually settled on one percent last year — this was actually a one-time bonus — and one percent this year, with no promises for future pay raises.

The peasants should be grateful that we gave them anything.”

But now there is a national teachers revolt that has rocked West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and the grassroots educators group #RedForEd in Arizona is threatening a walkout of their own. Arizona teachers demand 20 percent raises, more money for students:

Frustrated and desperate, Arizona educators are demanding 20 percent pay raises to address the state’s teacher crisis and have threatened to take escalated action if state leaders don’t respond with urgency.

Besides the 20 percent teacher raises, educators’ demands are:

  • Restoring state education funding to 2008 levels. Arizona spends $924 less per student in inflation-adjusted dollars today than it did in 2008, according to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. Restoring education funding to that level would cost the state about $1 billion.
  • Competitive pay for all education support professionals, such as teachers’ aides and paraprofessionals. Dollar figures for this weren’t specified Wednesday.
  • A “permanent” step-and-lane salary structure in which teachers are guaranteed annual raises and steady advancement in wages.
  • No new tax cuts until the state’s per-pupil funding reaches the national average. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 figures, the most recent available, Arizona spent $7,489 per pupil compared with the national average of $11,392.

Their demands would likely require raising taxes, putting teachers at odds with the governor and several conservative Republican legislators in power who’ve publicly said they will do no such thing.

Ducey, who is running for re-election this November, won office in 2014 on a promise to cut taxes every year he’s in office.

Fearing a national teacher revolt washing over him in an election year, our Koch-bot governor has opted for political theater, once again.

Ducey is offering what the headlines he grabbed from the state’s newspapers claim is a 20 percent pay raise for teachers, by 2020, but he offered no details on how he intends to pay for it. He also does not address the teachers other demands for restoring classroom spending for their students. Ducey proposes 20 percent pay increase for teachers by 2020:

Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday boosted his proposal for teacher raises next year to 9 percent, up from 1 percent he proposed in January, saying lawmakers would work through the weekend to figure out how to fund the plan.

Coupled with 5 percent raises the following two years — and counting the 1 percent raise given last year — Ducey said his proposal would give teachers a “net pay increase” of 20 percent by 2020.

It was a sudden about-face for the governor, who watched as educators in Arizona for weeks protested and threatened a walkout. As recently as Tuesday, Ducey called the protests a “political circus.”

Teachers have demanded 20 percent raises next year and restoration of about $1 billion in overall school funding that was cut during the recession. The governor’s plan doesn’t fully meet their demands, and on Thursday night, group members said they still would plan a walkout.

* * *

Ducey said the initial 9 percent raises, which would cost about $274 million, are a “priority” in his budget proposal, though he offered only general answers about higher state revenue to explain how he would pay for it.

“It’s going to be a long weekend,” the governor said.

Later Thursday, Ducey’s chief of staff Kirk Adams said some of the money would come from reductions in the Medicaid caseload. He said more details would be released in the coming days.

Ah, your typical GOP “divide and conquer” plan: pitting poor people on Medicaid against starving teachers. “You can have one or the other, but you can’t have both.”

Well, yes we can. The legislature can rescind the corporate welfare tax cuts passed by Governor Jan Brewer (and then House Speaker Kirk Adams) and phased-in over four years, and the additional corporate welfare tax cuts passed under Governor Ducey. Or the legislature can finally meet its constitutionally required duty and raise taxes to pay for public education in Arizona.

Ducey said the plan would not simply redirect money meant for other school needs, such as buildings and buses.

“We know there are other needs in public education,” he said. “There will be no shell games.”

Words are cheap when our GOP-controlled Arizona legislature has other ideas. House leaders offer teacher pay raise plan:

Republican House leadership is backing a plan to give teachers a 6-percent pay bump next year at the expense of Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposal to restore cuts to K-12 school capital funding.

The plan boasts of a cumulative 24-percent pay raise for teachers over six years. To do so, the Legislature would renege on a pledge made by Ducey to restore cuts made to public school monies used for capital expenses, like new school buses, textbooks and facility maintenance.

Legislators would bypass the decision makers in school districts to ensure that all available dollars go to teacher pay, House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said on KAET-TV’s Arizona Horizon Wednesday evening.

* * *

The proposal from GOP leaders misses the point protesters are trying to make, said Dana Naimark, president of Arizona Children’s Action Alliance. There isn’t enough funding available to address all the needs schools have, be it salaries, broken air conditioning systems or old textbooks.

“To try to dangle that in front of teachers saying we’re promising you a 24 percent pay raise I think is pretty disingenuous,” she said. “They’re just moving the shells around the table. The point is, we need more revenues to invest in schools.”

So Governor Ducey’s statement is directly at odds with his GOP leadership in the House.

The proposal would still leave K-12 school districts with a $400 million budget hole for capital expenses in five years, said Chuck Essigs, a lobbyist for the Arizona Association of School Business Officials.

“And it could threaten the governor’s efforts to settle the capital funding lawsuit brought by school districts” currently in court, shades of the Governor and legislature telling the school districts “screw you” in response to their court judgment for damages in their inflation funding formula lawsuit, which resulted in Governor Ducey’s political theater of the Prop. 123 settlement to “move shells around” from the state land trust: “take it or leave it.

UPDATE: The attorney for Michael Pierce who won a federal court ruling finding Arizona distributed more than $344 million to schools since 2016 without Congressional approval (Prop. 123) won’t ask for the money to be repaid because Congress finally approved the payouts last month. Man won’t seek Prop 123 repayment but may seek other cash. Attorney Andy Jacob says he plans to ask U.S. District Judge Neil Wake Monday to order the state Treasurer to formally account for extra moneys schools would have received from 2012 through 2016 under Proposition 108. He says last month’s Congressional vote approving Proposition 123 didn’t cover the earlier measure.

Once burned, twice shy. As Axel Foley said, I ain’t fallin’ for no banana in the tailpipe, a second time.

The Arizona Republic speculates about What we know about how Ducey plans to pay for a 20 percent raise:

For years the governor and GOP legislators have said “we simply don’t have the money” as they dig the revenue deficit hole deeper with even more tax cuts.

But Thursday, Ducey touted a plan that would give teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020.

The funds would not come from accounting gimmicks or through new taxes, he said. It would be a combination of nips and tucks in agencies, jettisoning some of the proposals on Ducey’s wish list and a bunch of money that materialized recently.

How much of each is unclear.

The governor outlined only broad brushstrokes. His staff offered a few more details, but no figures. The Arizona Republic asked Friday when numbers might be available, but has yet to receive a response.

The governor’s office distributed a fact sheet outlining the proposal. It ended with a long sentence detailing where the money for the plan would come from.

The key part of that sentence: “The state’s revenues are on the rise and have been higher than originally projected, combined with a reduction in state government operating budgets through strategic efficiencies, caseload savings, and a rollback of governor’s office proposals included in the FY2019 Executive Budget … ”

The state has had a string of good revenue months, with revenue outpacing projections by approximately $262 million. So we are supposed to believe that this will continue indefinitely, as if by magic.

The U.S. is currently in the Third-Longest Economic Expansion in U.S. History. It will not last forever. There will be a recession, and when there is this governor and GOP legislators will once again make draconian budget cuts to education. It is the only move they know.

[A]ccording to the governor’s proposal, much of the funding is coming from one-time windfalls. Financially, things are breaking the state’s way. But, there is nothing guaranteeing this continues.

Ducey’s plan seems to be built on what budget gurus call “one-time dollars.” These are dollars that are available now, but aren’t assured to always be. That’s different than a tax, which generally guarantees an ongoing, steady flow of money.

Ducey is calling for a raise, not a bonus. Those increased salaries would be an ongoing expense every year. And, for now, there is no dedicated funding stream for them.

Arizona teachers are right to be skeptical of Ducey’s raise proposal:

Arizona educators appeared mostly skeptical of Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposal to give teachers 20 percent raises by 2020, and the organizers leading the teachers’ #RedForEd revolt said it does not change their plans for a walkout.

Organizers with Arizona Educators United, the grassroots group fueling Arizona’s teacher-led #RedForEd movement, expressed distrust in Ducey’s proposal.

“This has raised more questions for us than answers,” Noah Karvelis, one of the AEU organizers, said. “We don’t know the details. We don’t know the funding sources.”

* * *

The #RedForEd organizers said they plan to move forward with a walkout and urged their members to remain united in a Facebook video message.

In the video, the organizers pressed for more details on how Ducey and legislators would fund the proposal. They noted the governor’s announcement did not address all five of their demands.

Karvelis, a Tolleson music teacher, said Ducey’s proposal “was essentially an attempt to stop whatever actions we may have been taking instead of a legitimate groundwork for future investment in education and to fulfill our demands.”

Vanessa Jimenez, vice president of the Phoenix Union Classified Employees Association, said she was dismayed that the governor’s raise proposal did not appear to include classified employees.

“I think his proposal is clearly an attempt to divide us. We’re not going to be divided,” Jimenez said. “We all are in this together, so I hope we don’t let this break us apart.”

* * *

Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, expressed skepticism over the governor’s announcement, saying it lacked detail.

Thomas said “What the governor appears to be doing is trotting out a set of goals without details and probably hoping teachers would just shut up and go back to work,” Thomas said. “And I don’t think they will. Teachers have seen this maneuver before.”

After educators got burned by Governor Ducey’s political theater on Proposition 123, their response should be The Who’s We Won’t Get Fooled Again.

4 responses to “After Prop. 123, ‘we don’t get fooled again’

  1. People are surprised when I say the schools need $1 billion a year more, and here it is from the JLBC (some of the smartest people at the Capitol).

  2. FSNT,
    You were apparently right about the blacklisting, but sometime it fails.

  3. North Of The River

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