Back in the day, they might have covered Governor Ducey’s response to the demands of Arizona teachers the way that the New York Daily News covered President Gerald Ford’s response to New York City: ‘Drop Dead.”
Here in Arizona today, this is the best we get. Ducey: ‘No’ to major teacher raises, ‘yes’ to more tax cuts:
Gov. Doug Ducey said Thursday that teachers aren’t going to get the 20 percent pay hike they are demanding — not now and not in the foreseeable future. Drop dead!
And he intends to continue proposing further cuts in state taxes even as teachers say without substantially more money they may have no choice but to strike.
Speaking to reporters a day after a rally brought more than 2,000 teachers and supporters to the Capitol, Ducey said he’s doing the best he can.
His “best” is not nearly good enough. And it’s not in good faith.
#DoubleTalkDucey said that the state has increased funding for salaries by about 9 percent since he took office in 2015.
But less than half of that is for actual raises, with the balance being for the additional teachers that had to be hired because of student growth.
#DoubleTalkDucey’s claims about the new money in K-12 education also include funds that came from voter approval in 2016 of Proposition 123.
That, however, was not really new dollars but instead funds to reimburse schools for what they did not get in prior years when lawmakers ignored a voter mandate to adjust state aid to schools annually to account for inflation. And most of those dollars actually came from a trust account that already belonged to schools in the first place.
What that leaves is the 1 percent increase that lawmakers gave teachers for the current school year — more than the [miserly] 0.4 percent that Ducey had actually sought — and the governor’s promise of an additional 1 percent hike for the coming school year.
And what it also does is leave Arizona teacher pay close to the bottom of the barrel nationally
#DoubleTalkDucey disputed figures from the Morrison Institute that put salaries for elementary school teachers dead last when considering the cost of living, with high school teachers at No. 49. Instead, he says Arizona is just 43rd in the nation.
“I’m not bragging on 43rd” (yes, he is) the governor said. “I’m just saying we’re not last.”
But the governor is not backing away from his pledge not only to never increase taxes but also refusing to reverse any of the hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate tax cuts that have kicked in since he took office. Each $100 million that was lost would translate to a 3 percent pay hike for teachers.
Perhaps more galling to teachers is Ducey’s insistence that lawmakers approve yet another tax cut this year, albeit a much smaller one that eventually would reduce state revenues by another $15 million a year.
#DoubleTalkDucey said he does not see tax cuts as antithetical to higher teacher pay. He said the state’s economy has grown since he took office, adding 160,000 new jobs. Ducey is a true believer in the “trickle-down tax fairy.”]
Per-student state aid is up 5 percent in the same period. But it still remains more than 4 percent below where it was a decade ago.
The governor’s comments, coming on the heels of the Phoenix rally, discouraged Arizona Educators United organizer Noah Karvelis.
“He’s going to continue to ignore and neglect us,” he said.
And Karvelis isn’t buying Ducey’s argument that the state can improve its economy by continuing to shave off sources of revenue.
“Every single one of those tax cuts has come with the promise it’s going to inject capital and dollars into our economy,” he said. “That hasn’t happened. That’s a lie.”
Nor does he believe that 20 percent is unrealistic, pointing out it would not even bring the average salary for Arizona teachers up to the national median.
“It’s ridiculous he won’t even consider it,” Karvelis said.
A 20 percent pay hike has a price tag approaching $680 million, which would require more than a 10 percent increase in the approximately $5.4 billion in state dollars now going into public schools.
Republican legislative leaders have said that while they think teachers deserve more, they just don’t have that kind of cash — and will not have since, like Ducey, they’re unwilling to consider tax hikes or reversing some of those corporate tax cuts.
The anti-tax GOP ideologues in our lawless Arizona legislature and our Koch-bot Governor Ducey are refusing to comply with their constitutionally mandated duty to adequately fund public education in Arizona:
Article XI, Section 6: The Arizona Constitution mandates a “system of common schools” that are “open to all pupils” and are “as nearly free as possible.”
Article IX, Section 3: The Arizona Constitution also mandates “(T)he Legislature shall provide by law for an annual tax sufficient, with other sources of revenue, to defray the necessary ordinary expenses of the state . . . “
Article XI, Section 10: The Arizona Constitution also mandates “taxation” to “insure proper maintenance of all state educational institutions.”
Arizona Schools Filed Suit Saying State Owes Them Billions of dollars in required capital project funding over the past decade. And just this week, Governor Ducey’s Prop. 123 scam was struck down by a federal judge as unconstitutional, for which the state may have to reimburse funds already distributed from the state trust. Prop. 123 ruling gives Gov. Ducey a potential $344 million headache. These same education organizations are leading the opposition to the GOP’s “vouchers on steroids” bill which would privatize public education, in violation of the Arizona Constitution, with Proposition 305: Save Our Schools Arizona referendum of school ‘vouchers on steroids’ qualifies for the 2018 ballot.
Governor Ducey and our lawless Tea-Publican legislature are not serious. Vote them out. It is the most immediate amd effective remedy available.
[A coalition of business CEOs] have said the current 0.6-cent sales tax for education — the one lawmakers just extended until 2041 — should be raised a full penny. That would raise more than $1 billion a year, far more than enough to get teacher pay here up to the national median.
The coalition’s plan was to put a ballot measure before voters in 2020, a concession to Governor Ducey so that it did not appear on the 2018 ballot with his reeelction bid. I have seen no reporting to indicate that their position has changed.
Karvelis conceded such a move would likely require gathering the signatures to put the issue to the ballot. And he said that remains an option, even for this year, though it would require supporters to gather more than 150,000 signatures on petitions by July 5.
And he said that, for Ducey, going that route would be worse for him than if teachers went on strike.
“We’re going to get out a ton of teachers to vote on that,” Karvelis said. “A lot of those teachers … are going to be checking ‘yes’ to that ballot initiative and then they’ll be checking ‘no’ for him.”
Unless the business coalition is willing to put up its millions of dollars right now to put this ballot measure on the 2018 ballot, there is no chance that this is going to happen in such a short period of time.
So where does this leave Arizona’s downtrodden teachers? The Washington Post reports, Arizona teachers, among the nation’s lowest paid, threaten to strike:
Teachers, who organized a grassroots campaign on social media, are demanding a 20 percent raise and restoration of school funding to 2008 levels, before the Great Recession struck, according to the Arizona Republic. They are also asking state lawmakers to stop cutting taxes until Arizona’s per-student spending reaches the national average.
“Governor Ducey, legislature, the last thing that any of us want to do is go on strike, but if we have to, we will,” teacher Dylan Wegela, an organizer of the movement, told protesters Wednesday at a rally outside the state house.
Arizona is the latest state where educators have risen up to demand higher wages and more investment in schools, emboldened by a successful statewide teacher walkout in West Virginia. Teachers there shut down schools for nine days until state lawmakers and the governor agreed to give them — and all state employees — a 5 percent raise.
Teachers in several Oklahoma school districts plan to walk out Monday, demanding a $10,000 raise for themselves, a raise for support staff and additional money for schools. State lawmakers recently passed a bill that would give teachers a $6,000 raise, but many educators plan to stay out of the classroom until the state accedes to their demands.
West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona have weathered some of the steepest cuts to school funding in the nation and their teachers have been among the worst paid. All three lost state revenue as Republicans focused on cutting taxes. West Virginia and Oklahoma have also been hurt by falling oil prices.
That has translated to deteriorating school buildings, outdated textbooks and teachers who are forced to take on second jobs — sometimes as waiters or ride-share drivers — to support themselves and their families. It also has contributed to a shortage of teachers. Arizona and Oklahoma have opted to use emergency certifications — which allows college graduates without formal teacher training — to enter the classroom.
In 2016, average teacher pay in Arizona ranked 43rd in the United States,according to the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union. West Virginia teacher pay ranked 48th and Oklahoma sat at 49th. Schools in those states endured some of the steepest budget cuts in the country, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank. Adjusted for inflation, Arizona schools lost nearly 25 percent of their state and local funding from 2008 to 2015.
All of this has occurred at the same time that corporations enjoyed a corporate welfare windfall from former Governor Jan Brwer’s four-year phased in corproate tax cuts, and additional tax cuts enacted under Governor Ducey.
The GOP’s priorities are clear: support for corporations and their wealthy plutocrat csmpaing donors. Public education, students and teachers in Arizona, not so much. For a better future, vote them out.