Governor Ducey’s ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ plan to fund teacher raises; teachers to vote on strike

After our Koch-bot Governor Ducey went from “those damn teachers should be grateful for the pittance I gave them” to doing a complete 180 degree flip-flop last week, saying he would agree to the teacher’s demands for a 20 percent pay increase by 2020, the question he left unanswered was “how do you intend to pay for it?” In a rare editorial opinion the Arizona Daily Star editorialized, Star Opinion: Gov. Ducey’s 20 percent teacher raises? Show us the money.

The Arizona Capitol Times has a partial answer today, and as you might expect, it’s the same old dog and pony show the GOP does with the state budget every year. Ducey proposes spending sweeps, reductions and rosy revenues to fund teacher raise. Lord help us.

Gov. Doug Ducey plans on funding a 20 percent teacher raise over the next three years with rosy revenue projections (magic!) and a mix of funding sweeps, lottery revenues and spending reductions.

State budget analysts provided legislators an analysis of Ducey’s plan, which the governor announced on April 12 amid emphatic teacher protests and threats of a strike. The governor promised he would push for a 9-percent raise in 2018, to be followed by 5 percent raises in the next two years.

That plan would cost the state $240 million in fiscal year 2019 alone. By FY21, the cost rises to $580 million, according to budget documents obtained by the Arizona Capitol Times.

In fiscal year 2019, that includes $176 million added to the base funding formula for K-12 schools, and $64 million in one-time dollars meant to act as “bridge” to the adjustment in Proposition 301 approved by the Legislature.

The Prop. 301 extension, approved in March, will shift $64 million in debt servicing to the Classroom Site Fund in fiscal year 2022, when the debt is paid off.

On top of those dollars, another $165 million would be added for teacher pay in fiscal year 2020, followed by $175 million in FY21.

To accomplish that amount of education spending, millions of dollars proposed for other state programs would be swept for education funding.

That includes $500,000 for the Attorney General’s Border Crimes Unit, $2 million in one-time funding for the developmentally disabled, $1 million for healthcare in private prisons and $8 million in one-time funding for Arizona universities.

Those are all spending priorities of legislative Republicans. In total, Ducey is asking the Legislature to give up on $34 million in new spending they’ve proposed in budget negotiations.

As I explained the other day, this is your typical GOP “divide and conquer” plan: pitting one interest group against another, or if you prefer, robbing Peter to pay Paul.  “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.

The governor’s office would also sweep $37 million in funds from other agencies, primarily the Department of Environmental Quality; collect $8 million in new Keno revenues;  increase the state’s hospital assessment, which pays for Medicaid expansion, by $35 million; and use $42 million in savings through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System and Department of Education, among other measures.

The governor’s staff also projects far higher growth in state revenues than budgets that have been drafted by GOP legislative leaders.

For instance, while budget analysts anticipate $46 million in new, ongoing revenues in the coming fiscal year, Ducey’s budget plans for $156 million.

I’m sorry, but a $110 million difference based upon magical thinking is just insane. As I explained the other day:

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.

While the Legislature is being asked to give up $34 million in spending priorities, some of Governor Ducey’s priorities are fully funded under his proposal. It’s good to be king.

This includes $16 million to pay for his school safety plan, which the Legislature has yet to vote on (last week, a Hearing on Ducey gun violence bill cancelled due to opposition); $28 million to the School Facilities Board to cover building repairs; and $15 million for prison health care, among other proposals.

You should note that Governor Ducey does not even address the Lawsuit against our lawless Tea-Publican legislature for unconstitutionally underfunding capital needs of school districts: a potential $4.5 billion liability hole blown in the state budget, plus the attorneys fees and costs to be awarded to the plaintiff school districts.

And there is the still yet unresolved lawsuit over Prop. 123. Questions linger in Arizona education funding suit:

A Phoenix man who won a federal court ruling finding Arizona distributed more than $344 million to schools since 2016 without Congressional approval might seek hundreds of millions of additional dollars for education funding.

Michael Pierce’s attorney Andrew Jacob on Monday told U.S. District Judge Neil Wake that he believes about $300 million dollars would’ve gone to schools from the state land trust prior to voter-approved changes to a funding formula that the judge since found were made without requisite Congressional approval.

“If the state had followed the law and been held to it, that money would’ve come out of fiscal year 2013 to 2014, 2015, and we believe it should come out now,” Jacob said.

But since federal courts are barred from telling states what to do with their money in most cases, a state court action might need to filed seeking such relief. Jacob also wants Wake to issue a formal judgment that says any changes to distributions require Congressional approval.

Judge Wake said he’s open to allowing Piece to file new papers over whether the Congressional authorization covers Proposition 118. He advised Jacob to “confer with the other side as much as you want, and then fish or cut bait.”

Jacob said he intends to file papers regarding their next moves by the end of next week.

The 23-month-old lawsuit is churning ahead at a time when education funding plans are at the heart of state budget negotiations.

With all this budget uncertainty, Arizona teachers are voting beginning today on whether or not they will join the teacher rebellion in other states and walk out. Teachers to vote on strike, unhappy with pay raise offer:

In a video posted at 9 p.m. on April 15, leaders of the Red for Ed movement said voting would begin on April 17 and end on April 19.

That will include a “vote-in” on Wednesday, much like the walk-ins staged last week that was followed by Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposal to award teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020.

Less than 24 hours after the announcement, one AEU leader returned to Facebook to address conflicting messages that had already spread to its members.

Derek Harris said on video that liaisons at individual schools who are responsible for distributing paper ballots should not make their own ballots or hand out anything before the group issues its instructions.

Harris said he’s heard rumors about an AEU ballot and another from the Arizona Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, but said there would be just one from AEU focused on one question: Will you walk out?

He also advised members not to vote during their work hours, or contract time.

In addition to ballots, he said site liaisons will be provided with instructions on how to create a secure ballot box and count the votes after voting is closed on Thursday.

Harris said about 110,000 people participated in walk-ins on April 11.

Harris challenged members to double that number in the vote this week. The effort will culminate in community meetings on April 21 to rally support from the public.

“(Ducey’s) proposal falls short for us in a lot of different ways, and it’s problematic,” said organizer Noah Karvelis, pointing specifically to concerns that there may not be a sustainable source of funds through which the governor’s promise can be fulfilled in the years to come. “What that means is that these are empty promises.”

Karvelis said the proposal also does not do enough for students and support staff.

Competitive pay for all public education support staff and increased per pupil funding have also been among the group’s demands.

He added the raises will do nothing to add instruments to his classroom – Karvelis is a music teacher at Tres Rios Elementary School – and the other leaders added to a laundry list of needs not met by the governor’s plan: updated technology and curriculum, infrastructure repairs, bus drivers, speech and physical therapists, and reduced class sizes.

Dylan Wegela, another leader who spoke on the Facebook video, said, “I can’t walk back into my classroom without getting more for my students and this movement.”

The leaders put Arizona Educators United on “#RedAlert” this week as they watch the Legislature carefully for anything “funny.”

Early responses to the video indicated concern among members that a strike may come too late if the group waits another week to take action.

At this point there is still no state budget outline agreed to among the governor and GOP legislative leaders to put before the legislature for a vote. But you should expect that to occur before the end of April.

3 responses to “Governor Ducey’s ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ plan to fund teacher raises; teachers to vote on strike

  1. Sen. John Kavanagh

    In the meantime, Democrat gubernatorial candidates Farley and Garcia stand relatively penniless on the side of the road holding their 4 inch pipes and wearing their “Red for Ed” shirts, while Ducey drives their key campaign vehicle down the road to victory.

    • Sarka Scarpulla

      Because a ‘political’ victory is what is most important in this matter. Beholden to a disproven, elitist politi-economic clap trap of governance, proves only your dispassionate arrogance and negligence to the children of our state. Charters and vouchers have their place, but the Governor and Legislature are mandated by the State Constitution to fund public education. They have failed miserably to meet this obligation.

  2. Frances Perkins

    The fairy dust school of economics. Isn’t it funny how those, almost always Republicans, who believe in this nonsense, will find a way to leave and let someone else clean up the mess. Brownback creates a total mess in Kansas, then leaves for a job as ambassador for religious fanaticism. Ryan’s corporate welfare tax act, blows a huge hole in the US deficit, gives a pittance, if anything, to the average family, then will leave and not have to live with his mess. Ducey, following the same script, will, I predict leave for some job Trump will give him, (although that may blow a hole in his national ambitions) and will leave a monster of an education funding mess for someone else to try and clean up. All to satisfy their corporate masters.