Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.
On this Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d ask, when it comes to our public schools students in Arizona, “who loves you baby?” Yesterday, I was listening in on the AZ House Education Committee meeting. There were many bills on the agenda, but I was primarily interested in HB 2394; empowerment scholarship accounts [ESAs]; expansion; phase-in. I wasn’t hopeful the bill would die, as its companion bill SB 1431, had already been given a due-pass by the Senate Education Committee. As expected, HB 2394 followed suit on a 6–5 vote as did HB 2465, which will allow all students eligible for an ESA account to remain on the program until age 22 and for up to $2,000 a year to be put into a 529 savings account.
The passage of these bills, along with the companion ones in the Senate, demonstrate the disdain many GOP legislators have for our district schools and, for the underpaid educators who toil within. This, because ESAs divert more general fund revenue per student to private schools than district schools receive. As reported by the Arizona School Boards Association, an ESA student, on average, costs the state general fund $1,083 more in grades K–8, and $1,286 more in grades 9–12 than a district student. This is in part because there are many school districts that enjoy a fair amount of locally controlled support in the way of overrides and bonds. The state therefore, is relieved of providing equalization funding to them, but when students leave to go to private schools, all the funding must come from the state general fund. ESA students also receive charter additional assistance funding of roughly $1,200 per student, which district schools do not receive. Turns out that the claim of voucher proponents that they save the state money, is not just “alternative facts” but totally untrue. And, although voucher proponents love to claim there is no harm to district schools when students take their funding and leave, the truth is that about 19 percent of a districts costs are fixed (teacher salaries, transportation, facility repair and maintenance, utilities) and can’t be reduced with each student’s departure. Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged ALEC, American Federation for Children, Americans for Prosperity, Arizona School Boards Association, AZ Catholic Conference, az chamber of commerce, betsy devos, cathi herrod, commercialization, Doug Coleman, Glen Hamer, goldwater institute, Michelle Udall, private schools, privatization, school choice, vouchers
Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.
We knew it was coming and awaited it with dread. And, drumroll please…crash goes the cymbal! Yes, here it is, this year’s attempt to exponentially expand Arzona’s voucher (Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, or ESA) program. Of course, the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) chief water carrier for Arizona, Senator Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, is the one proposing the expansion. Lesko claims the expansion of ESAs will “not lead to a mass exodus of children from public schools.” I, for the most part, agree with that statement since Arizona parents have made it clear district schools are their choice with 80% of students attending district schools and another almost 15% in charter schools.
But, to infer a massive voucher expansion will have no negative impact on district schools is disingenuous at best. No matter how slowly students may attrit from district schools, each student’s departure leaves behind a 19% budget shortfall. That’s because there are numerous fixed costs (teacher salaries, facility maintenance, utilities, buses, etc.) that cannot be reduced student by student. The siphoning of dollars from our district schools has been steadily increasing and just exacerbates an already inadequately resourced system.
This isn’t the first year the Legislature has attempted to expand the voucher program. In fact, they’ve been successful in expansions every year since the ESA program was launched in 2011. This isn’t even the first time a full expansion has been attempted, with a very similar proposal going down in flames last year due to public outcry and a perceived conflict with securing voter approval of Prop. 123. This year though, Lesko has sweetened the deal by requiring the testing of students attending private schools on vouchers. She says she “doesn’t personally think this requirement is necessary,” but obviously is trying to defuse the argument from voucher opponents that there is no accountability or return on investment for vouchered students. Continue reading
Posted in Budgets, Civil Rights, Economics, Education, Racism
Tagged ALEC, American Federation for Children, betsy devos, clint bolick, commercial schools, debbie lesko, district schools, ESAs, goldwater institute, President Trump, private schools, school choice, vouchers
Spoiler Alert: I am really glad I didn’t drive to Phoenix today for the House Ways and Means Committee meeting during which they considered HB 2842, Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs); Expansion; Phase-In. I’m glad I stayed home because I’m sure my presence it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference. Instead, I watched live streaming of the meeting and gleaned from the testimony that ESAs are lacking in accountability and transparency and serve the few at the expense of the majority.
The first “against” speaker I viewed was Ms. Stacey Morley from the Arizona Education Association. She talked about how when the full cap is reached, 5,500 students could have accepted ESAs at a cost of $13M to the state. Tory Anderson, from the Secular Coalition of Arizona expressed her organization’s opposition to any use of taxpayer dollars to fund religious schools. An AZ Department of Education representative said DOE is neutral on the bill, but wants to ensure they get their full 5% portion of the ESA funds for ensuring accountability. These funds are prescribed by law, but haven’t always been fully included in the budget. He talked about the importance of adequate oversight and referred to the 700 to 1 ratio currently in place for program liaisons that work with families to provide that oversight. As high as that number is, he wanted to ensure further budget cuts don’t make the challenge even tougher. Continue reading
Crossposted from DemocraticDiva.com
Steven Slivinski, from handout
Doug Ducey ran on the promise of eliminating Arizona’s income tax in 2014. It wasn’t taken seriously by most political observers and the candidate himself walked his proposal back and characterized it as an aspiration when pressed on how it was possible to implement it.
“No one’s talking about eliminating the income tax,” he said. “I’ve talked about an ever-improving tax situation, where year after year, we have an improving climate and if we can get it as close to zero as we possible, that’s a positive. Because the nine states that don’t have an income tax have double the job growth of the highest-tax states.”
He later said his talk of driving the income tax rate to zero is a “direction.”
His campaign literature says otherwise. In his “My Pledge to the People of Arizona,” which is online and distributed to voters, Ducey’s No. 1 promise if he’s elected is to “Submit legislation to reduce taxes every year, with the goal of eliminating personal and corporate income taxes in Arizona.”
On April 30, he told The Arizona Republic eliminating the taxes is a “long-term goal, it is one I embrace.”
The Republic asked Ducey on Tuesday evening to clarify the remarks he made during the debate in light of his campaign literature and prior comments. Ducey said, “Elimination is a severe word. Reduction and improvement (in the tax code), people will get that. We will do that over a couple of legislative sessions.”
Now that Ducey has been elected, elimination (that severe word) of the income tax appears to be fully on the table. Keep your eye on a guy named Steven Slivinski. He’s a former “senior economist” for the Goldwater Institute (huge red flag) and he has nabbed himself a spot as a “senior research fellow” at ASU’s (wait for it) Center for the Study of Economic Liberty (freedom!). If you guessed from the name of that endeavor that it was funded by the Koch Brothers without looking it up, you win the door prize.
Slivinski explained in an op-ed to the AZ Republic how this income tax-free nirvana can come to be: Continue reading
Posted in Budgets, Campaigns, Charter Schools, Donna Gratehouse, Economics, Education, Elections, Ethics, Taxes
Tagged Arizona Republic, ASU, budget, Doug Ducey, goldwater institute, Koch Brothers, steven slivinski