Outlook for the ‘next step’ in public education funding is not good

education_appleWe are still waiting for Governor Doug Ducey’s “next step” in public education funding to be announced. In the meantime . . .

Arizona’s most corrupt state senator, Steve Yarbrough (R-Chandler), who uses his position to write charter school bills to steer state funding to his Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization in order to benefit himself financially, will be the President of Senate. Yarbrough will be new state Senate president. Together with “Arizona’s 31st Senator,” Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy, you can bet that the “vouchers for all” bill will be back in January.

Should a “vouchers for all” bill pass and be signed into law by the governor, it will immediately be met with a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality,

In the House, J.D. Mesnard will be the new House Speaker. It’s official: Mesnard will be House speaker. His shtick since he has been in the House is his pursuit of a single-rate income tax, collapsing the current system of five tax brackets into one. GOP leader looking at one income tax rate. Mesnard claims that technically it’s not a “flat tax” because he proposes to have sufficient tax credits to ensure that those at the bottom of the income scale do not end up paying more.

Just remember that, whatever tax changes are enacted effectively become permanent because of the GOP’s weapon of mass destruction, the “Two-thirds for Taxes Amendment,” Prop. 108 (1992), which requires a two-thirds majority vote of each chamber to either increase tax rates, or to eliminate or reduce tax exemptions or credits.

Arizona’s controversial Superintendent of Public Instruction, Diane Douglas, who has little to no policy influence at the legislature, presented a $680 million wish list of education spending on Tuesday. Arizona school chief’s education plan would require $680M in new funds:

State schools chief Diane Douglas wants an immediate boost in state aid to schools plus additional dollars to attract and retain teachers.

In a plan unveiled Tuesday, Douglas also wants the state to once again pay to build new schools before they are needed — and before students are spilling out of crowded buildings. And she said lawmakers and the governor should boost the money they are giving schools for maintenance.

All that would be above and beyond the $3.5 billion voters approved for schools in the coming decade — about $350 million a year or about $300 per student.

Douglas acknowledged the $680 million price tag for what she wants.

But she pointed out the state has about $450 million in it’s “rainy day” fund. And Douglas it is up to the governor and lawmakers to decide whether to keep that money there or spend it on education.

“As a state, do we want Arizona to have the best education system in the nation and in the world for our children, or simply the cheapest system we can get by with politically,” she said.

In setting the aggressive goal, Douglas is putting pressure on Gov. Doug Ducey who spearheaded the campaign earlier this year for approval of Proposition 123.

At the time the governor promised that the additional dollars, most of them coming from a land trust account already set aside for education, would be only a first step. But Ducey has yet to provide any specifics on what more he will propose when the legislature convenes in January.

The Arizona Capitol Times adds:

Douglas’ written plan, dubbed “Arizona Kids Can’t Wait,” offers only the $460 million rainy-day fund and general fund allocations for grants as sources of money for her proposals.

She said at a press conference the state could also work to get the federal government to hand over land to the state and utilize revenues that are coming in higher than projected.

“I don’t appropriate money,” Douglas said. “I’m talking about what our state needs to appropriately educate our children.”

Douglas said she wants to work with Gov. Doug Ducey, lawmakers, and education stakeholders to make as many of her proposals as possible a reality.

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Douglas said she wants teachers to get another 5 percent raise, which would cost the state $140 million a year for the next three years, or $420 million.

She suggested the money come from the state’s reserves, or rainy-day fund.

Her plan also calls for $200 million more in state assistance to equalize per pupil spending among school districts, $20 million for rural school transportation funding, $40 million for additional state assistance to rural school districts, $180 million for restored funding for new school buildings, and $100 million for restored funding for preventive maintenance of school buildings.

It seems that everyone in the media has already forgotten about this other shoe waiting to drop on education funding in Arizona. Legislature faces new lawsuit over money for school construction:

Just as one lawsuit on education funding is being settled, state lawmakers face a new one, this one over what challengers say is their failure to build and maintain public schools.

Attorney Tim Hogan of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest said the Legislature is effectively ignoring a 1994 ruling by the state Supreme Court that declared it is illegal to have taxpayers in each school district solely responsible for school construction.

Lawmakers, after several failed attempts, finally approved a plan that was supposed to have the state pick up the responsibility. But Hogan said the Legislature has not provided adequate funding in years.

The result, he said, has been to throw the burden back on local districts whose voters have to borrow money for what should be a state responsibility, precisely the situation the Supreme Court found unconstitutional in 1994.

Hogan is now working with local school districts that have been denied the money they need for new schools — money the state was supposed to provide — to ask Arizona judges to force lawmakers to properly fund the system.

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Lawmakers eventually approved the School Facilities Board which was supposed to pick up every district’s construction needs.

But they never came up with a new source of revenue to fund the potential $300 million annual price tag, instead absorbing the cost into the general fund. That, however, worked only when the economy was good and revenues were increasing.

Hogan said that account has not been fully funded for nearly a decade. And it was replaced three years ago with a new system where school districts could seek — but not be guaranteed — grant funds.

The result, he said, is that local districts that need schools but can’t wait for a state grant once again have to turn to their voters for bond approval. And that brings the funding system back to what the Supreme Court previously found illegal.

“In some ways, we’re worse off than before,” Hogan said. At least the 1996 plan had $100 million set aside.

Hogan said he has no timeline for when the new lawsuit will be filed.

One response to “Outlook for the ‘next step’ in public education funding is not good

  1. Robert Francis

    This looks like State Sponsored Public Education Failure. A sure way to convince the populace that our schools are not worthy. Channeling cash into politicians pockets and eventually more private prisons eventually creating the last bit of blame for failed schools. What will blame things on for their failures? We need another John Glenn Event.