Tag Archives: Governor Ducey

So Much for the “Education Governor”

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

A couple of nights ago, I was talking with a news editor who asked me about the effect of the voucher expansion on homeschoolers. He said when he homeschooled his child, he saw it as his responsibility to bear those costs. He wondered with the new expansion, if homeschoolers would now get taxpayer dollars to teach their child at home. I told him homeschoolers were always eligible for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs), or vouchers (I prefer to call them what they really are), but their child needed to be in one of the eligible categories such as: having a disability, from a D or F rated school, living on tribal land, dependents of military, wards of the state, etc. With the latest expansion of eligibility though, all categories of children are eligible for the vouchers. He surmised it wouldn’t take long to reach that cap, given there are some 20,000 homeschooled children in Arizona.

It is difficult to find clear data about the number of homeschoolers but a general estimate is from three to four percent of the school-age population. Given that, we are looking at 30,000 to 40,0000 students in Arizona. Another source I found from 2011 quoted the number at 22,500, so in the interest of being conservative, let’s go with 25,000. To the news editor’s point, if all 25,000 estimated homeschoolers took vouchers, that would deplete Arizona’s general fund by $110 million in taxpayer dollars which are then not available for district education or other critical programs and services. And this new outlay would not be offset by any reduced costs on the part of the state since previously, parents were footing this bill. At three to four percent though, homeschoolers are just a fraction of those who could take the vouchers and run. Continue reading

The Coercive Power of Taxation

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

Robert Robb wrote in a recent Op-Ed in the AZ Republic, “The government, through the coercive power of taxation, establishes a central pool of resources for the education of students.” Wow, the “coercive power of taxation.” Now that is some powerful spin. Last time I looked, taxes (that “central pool of resources”) are something we agree to pay. After all, as Jeff Bryant, in his blog OurFuture.org, writes “But in a democratic society, “government” is ultimately up to us, and what it does is an expression of what we want to do for ourselves.So what the critics of government are saying, really, is that they have a problem with democracy. It’s important to know government wasn’t turned into a four-letter word by happenstance. It happened by design.” The government isn’t though, some outside entity over which we have no say. The government is us! We elect those who make the laws we must follow and set the taxes we must pay. We also have the power to un-elect them. To believe those who would tell us otherwise is to abrogate our rights and responsibilities.

I just don’t get it. If taxes are an evil, coersive power, how does Robb expect a civil society to fund the common needs of its citizenry? Is there no responsibility on the part of that citizenry to contribute to provision for the common good? I suppose he would advocate for business to do it. I hate to break it to him, but business can’t or won’t provide for all our needs. There just are some things that are best provided collectively by government and based on my 22 years in the Air Force and time as a government contractor afterwards, I’ll take a sometimes inefficient government team working for our common good over a profit driven contractor any day! Continue reading

Wishing doesn’t make it so

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas just released her 2017 “AZ Kids Can’t Wait” education plan calling for pay raises to teachers, repairing school facilities and buying new buses. At the same time, business leaders such as the CEOs of PetSmart, Goodman’s Interior Structures, and Empire Southwest Caterpillar, are proposing a five-year funding phase-in of full-day kindergarten.

These are both laudable pursuits. We know Arizona has a critical teacher shortage, our school facilities are in need of repair and upgrade, and our busses are beyond old. We also know how critical full-day kindergarten is the to the long-term success of our students both in school and beyond. But, understanding the problem is only half of the solution. The other half, is providing the funding to make it happen.

In terms of the AZ Kids Can’t Wait plan, the bill is $680 million. That’s $200 million without strings attached; $140 million to boost teacher salaries; $60 million to increase rural transportation funding and help with teacher recruitment; and $280 million to begin to address district capital funding requirements. There’s nothing wrong with Superintendent Douglas’ plan, districts desperately need this help. At a press conference where she announced it, Douglas made it clear it isn’t her job to find the funding. “I don’t appropriate money“she said, and went on to make the point that, “the state has about $450 million in it’s ‘rainy day’ fund” and it is up to the governor and lawmakers to decide to spend it on education. Continue reading

Remember in November

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) just released a new report on states’ investments in their public schools. “Public investment in K-12 schools – crucial for communities to thrive and the U.S. economy to offer broad opportunity – has declined dramatically in a number of states over the last decade” reports the CBPP. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Arizona ranks 15th in the nation for the number of students enrolled in public K-12 schools, but 48th in per pupil spending, with state funding per pupil down 36.6%. In state dollars alone (per pupil), Arizona only provided 56.5% of the national average according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Public Education Finances: 2014 report released this year.

Greatly exacerbating the situation (especially moving forward) is the fact that Arizona is one of the five states having “enacted income tax rate cuts costing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars each year rather than restore education funding.” Nationwide, states made up 45% of their budget shortfalls between 2008 and 2012 with spending cuts and only 16% with taxes and fees. Governor Ducey has promised to cut income tax every year he is in office, continuing two decades of tax cuts that that will cost the state’s 2016 general fund $4 billion in revenue. He and the Arizona Legislature may blame the recession on Arizona’s budget woes, but “more than 90% of the decline in revenue resulted from tax reductions…the remainder is due to the recession. Adding to the problem is that the Federal education aid programs shrunk at the same time. Those cuts are critical given that one in four of Arizona’s children live in poverty and Federal assistance for high-poverty schools is down 8.3% since 2010. Federal spending for the education of disabled students is also down by 6.4%. Continue reading