Category Archives: Ballot Referendas and Initiatives

Pass HB 2158 to permanently extend Prop. 301 education funding

State Rep. Doug Coleman, R-Apache Junction, on Wednesday introduced legislation that would permanently continue the Proposition 301 education sales tax that brings in about $600 million a year to Arizona schools, which is set to expire in mid-2021. Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, is signed onto the bill as a co-sponsor. Republican bill would permanently extend Arizona’s education tax:

The education sales tax, which voters passed in 2000 as Proposition 301, is set to expire in mid-2021.

State Rep. Doug Coleman told The Arizona Republic that House Bill 2158 would essentially “get rid of the cliff” surrounding Prop. 301.

Prop. 301 is a 0.6 cent per dollar education-funding sales tax. Its future has been a point of contention and concern among education and business advocates and state leaders. The money funds things such as teacher salaries and classroom expenses.

The sales tax — and the hundreds of millions of school-funding dollars that come with it — will be gone unless voters approve an extension of the tax in the 2018 or 2020 election or two-thirds of the state’s 90-member Legislature pass legislation to maintain the funding.

Democratic lawmakers last year introduced legislation to extend and expand Prop. 301, but Republican leadership never granted it the required public hearing or votes.

Coleman said his House Bill 2158 would not have additional funding beyond what schools already receive and would not change how the money from the sales is doled out to schools.

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School capital funding case goes to court, Governor Ducey only offers pennies on the dollar of what is actually owed

The other day I pointed out that Governor Doug Ducey, as well as reporters and pundits, were not discussing the lawsuit filed last year by Arizona school districts for being short-changed by our lawless Tea-Publican legislature on capital funding. Arizona schools to sue state over funding – again:

A year after voters passed Prop. 123 to resolve a $1.6 billion lawsuit over school funding, Arizona school districts are again taking the governor and Legislature to court.

And this lawsuit is even larger.

School budget officials have estimated the cuts since 2009 total about $2 billion.

Governor Ducey addressed this oversight on Tuesday and, once again, just like his sham Prop. 123 to settle the inflation adjustment school funding lawsuit by tapping the State Trust Fund and only paying about 70 cents on the dollar of what the courts had already determined that the state owed to Arizona’s school districts,  Governor Ducey is again proposing to pay only pennies on the dollar over five years as a settlement offer in this capital funding case. The plaintiffs in this case should not settle for less than what is owed, again. Governor’s school funding plan would restore capital dollars to pre-recession levels (not really):

Gov. Doug Ducey trotted out a plan Tuesday to eventually restore funding for capital needs for schools to what it was before the Great Recession (2007).

The proposal would put an immediate $100 million this coming school year into an account that is earmarked for “soft capital,” things like computers, books and school buses.

Ducey hopes to boost that to $371 million by the fifth year of the plan. [upwards of $2 billion is owed.] He also wants to give school districts flexibility, allowing local boards to use the dollars for other priorities, ranging from construction to teacher salaries.

The offer comes nearly a year after a coalition of schools and educators filed suit against the state charging it is not living up to its constitutional obligations to provide adequate funding for school buildings, equipment and repairs. It also comes just three days before Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Daniel Martin hears legal arguments in that case.

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Gov. Ducey’s State of The State Address is not well received

Our self-proclaimed “education governor,” Doug Ducey, yesterday delivered pablum in his State of  The State Address, making lofty promises of increased pubic education funding but failing to explain how he intends to pay for it. Gov. Doug Ducey’s State of the State speech: 6 big takeaways:

Education promises, but few details

Ducey focused the bulk of the education portion of his speech [2 pages out of a 17 page address] on trying to “get some facts straight” by touting improved student performance and additional K-12 spending under his administration.

Specifically, he noted that overall inflation-adjusted funding per student in Arizona has increased by 10 percent since 2015. Arizona spent an inflation-adjusted $3,782 per student in 2015, compared to $4,157 per student in 2018, according to documents from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

But both those figures remain below what Arizona spent per student in 2008 and are unlikely to satisfy those who argue that schools are underfunded.

A recent study by the progressive think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found Arizona cut more K-12 funding than any other state between 2008 and 2015.

Ducey in his speech vowed to “restore long-standing cuts from the recession made before many of us were here.”

He listed seven specific areas — including full-day kindergarten and new school buses — where his budget would invest more dollars toward education, but he did not include details. Those details are expected in his budget proposal Friday.

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The looming battle over school financing in the Arizona legislature

“A plan by Arizona business leaders to ask voters for a 1.5-cent sales tax hike for education at the 2020 ballot could set the stage for a possibly expensive battle with Gov. Doug Ducey and his Koch brothers allies — assuming Ducey is still in office at that point.” Plan to place education tax increase on ballot could spark battle:

The specifics of the plan, first proposed earlier this year, include $660 million to extend the 0.6-cent sales tax that voters first approved in 2000 as Proposition 301 to fund education. That levy will self-destruct in 2021 unless specifically reauthorized.

Ducey has already said he supports making that tax permanent.

But this plan also includes $340 million for a 10 percent increase teacher pay. That compares with the 1.06 percent pay hike lawmakers approved for this year with a promise of an identical amount next year.

There’s also $300 million to fund the formula, ignored for years by the governor and lawmakers, which is supposed to pay for new school construction and repairs.

Another $240 million would restore state funding for full-day kindergarten, dollars eliminated during the recession.

And there were would be $190 million to help restore some of the cuts made in funding for universities.

Ducey, for his part, remains opposed to anything more than the simple extension of the 0.6-cent tax.

“He doesn’t support raising taxes,” press aide Daniel Scarpinato said Wednesday. Instead, the governor has told state agencies chiefs to find ways to save money in their budgets with the idea of redirecting the dollars to K-12 education.

Ducey has a track record fighting against higher taxes for education. As state treasurer he led the successful 2012 fight against an initiative pushed by parents and educators to make permanent a temporary one-cent sales tax increase which voters had approved two years earlier.

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The power of a single vote in Virginia (Updated)

Nothing pisses me off more than the the people I encounter who tell me they don’t bother to vote because they feel their vote doesn’t count. By not voting, they ensure that this is true.

One of the first house races I worked on in Arizona many years ago was decided in favor of the Democratic candidate by something like 28 votes after an automatic recount.  Don’t tell me that every vote doesn’t count.

Cartoon_13The “blue wave” election in Virginia in November had several state legislative races remaining to be decided by a recount. On Tuesday, one recount was decided by a single vote. And that legislative race gave Democrats shared power in the Virginia legislature. In Virginia, a 11,608-to-11,607 Lesson in the Power of a Single Vote:

The Democratic wave that rose on Election Day in Virginia last month delivered a final crash on the sand Tuesday when a Democratic challenger defeated a Republican incumbent by a single vote, leaving the Virginia House of Delegates evenly split between the two parties.

The victory by Shelly Simonds, a school board member in Newport News, was a civics lesson in every-vote-counts as she won 11,608 to 11,607 in a recount conducted by local election officials.

Ms. Simonds’s win means a 50-50 split in the State House, where Republicans had clung to a one-seat majority after losing 15 seats last month in a night of Democratic victories up and down the ballot, which were widely seen as a rebuke to President Trump. Republicans have controlled the House for 17 years.

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Education Shorts

Catching up on my “to do” list on education issues in Arizona.

In late November, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a new analysis of school funding in 48 states which shows that funding for Arizona’s kindergarten to grade 12 public school system remains nearly 14 percent below what it was before the Great Recession hit in 2007. The Arizona Capitol Times reports, Arizona school funding still lagging, report shows:

The study by the Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan research institute showed that even with an infusion of money since Gov. Doug Ducey took office in 2016, the state’s per-pupil spending is well below its 2008 funding levels when adjusted for inflation. It also said per-pupil formula spending dropped last year by 1.2 percent.

Ducey has touted his efforts to boost K-12 spending, and laughingly proclaimed himself to be the “education governor.”

“Arizona has put more money into K-12 education over the last three years than any other state in the country, without raising taxes,” he told KTAR radio earlier this month. “It has been the focus of every budget that we’ve had.”

But much of that increase came from settling a lawsuit brought by schools that alleged the state illegally cut spending during the recession. [And that case was settled for substantially less than the restitution actually owed by our lawless Tea-Publican legislature for its theft of education funds.]  The settlement added some state spending but most of the new cash came from increasing withdrawals from the state land trust dedicated to schools.

The study found that Arizona school funding hasn’t recovered from the cuts despite the new spending and could be getting worse, said Mike Leachman, the center’s state fiscal research director.

“It’s clear that Arizona school funding is down significantly and the data we have suggest further worsening at least in terms of formula funding, which is the major source for general support for all school districts in the state,” he said.

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