The Tea-Publican leader of the Arizona Senate, Andy Biggs, suggested last week that it is Democrats who point out that Arizona’s failure to fund classroom education, the poor performance of its students, and a legislature that made the deepest cuts to education of any state in the nation during the recession and is now refusing to comply with a judgment of the court to pay restitution to Arizona school districts for its theft, is why the economic recovery in Arizona has trailed the rest of the nation so badly.
In other words, kill the messenger. Anyone who dares to criticize the Tea-Publican controlled legislature for its war on public education in Arizona and the failure of its faith based supply-side “trickle down” economics is to be silenced.
Ironic timing given the “Je Suis Charlie” events in Paris last week, dontcha think?
Howard Fischer reported, Senate leader raps Dems over school-funding comments:
The state’s top Senate Republican accused Democrats Friday of hampering the state’s recovery by complaining about the state’s public education system.
Senate President Andy Biggs said claims by members of the other part that the Republican-controlled Legislature has cut $4 billion in education funds in the last half decade are “dangerous and erroneous.” Biggs said while there were cuts for several years early in the recession the state is now spending more than it ever has. And he said Arizona provides “a good education” though it may have “a ways to go.” [Note: None of this is true. See below.]
“But if you want to consistently say to business, ‘Hey, you know what? We have a crappy education system,’ you’re not helping the state, you’re not helping our education system, and you are hindering our economy,” Biggs told an audience of business executive at a forum just ahead of the new legislative session which begins Monday.
In other words, “shut up!” Don’t tell people how awful we are. Well, screw you, Andy. We speak truth to power here. We are never intimidated.
The Center on Budget and Policy priorities prepared this study in 2012 which calculated the top 17 states in per-student spending cuts (full table right). Arizona topped the list with a 21.89% drop in inflation-adjusted dollars between 2008 and 2013. Arizona was already rock bottom in per student spending in 2008.
The inflation adjustment to education funding is the subject of a continuing lawsuit that could subject the state to another $1 billion liability for back years of restitution to the school districts, on top of the $331 million owed in the current budget year.
Even Governor Doug Ducey says Arizona is doing a miserable job in classroom spending. Do you want to tell him to “shut up!” too, Andy? The Arizona Republic reports, 5 things to watch for in Ducey’s State of the State:
Gov. Ducey said the state is currently putting about 55 cents of every education dollar into the classroom, compared with the national average of 62 cents.
“I want to see us add more dollars to the classroom,” Ducey said. “That’s to teachers teaching and students learning, is how I see it.”
The AP reports, Ducey to announce hiring freeze, school funding revamp:
Arizona schools spent 54 percent of their available operating cash on classroom instruction in the 2013 budget year, more than 7 percentage points below the national average, according to the most recent state Auditor General’s report. That lower spending translates into larger class sizes.
The remainder of the school money goes to administration, which is lower than the national average, transportation, food service, building maintenance and IT systems.
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[T]he auditor’s report noted that much of that higher non-classroom spending was due to larger class sizes, a sign of lower-than average state funding, higher energy costs and a larger-than-average poverty rate, which increases the need for student support such as counselors.
Instead of a strategy of kill the messenger and bury your head in the sand to pretend that Arizona provides “a good education,” maybe the Arizona legislature should end its war on public education and get serious about actually providing quality education if it wants to attract new business to Arizona.
Unfortunately, Tea-Publicans in the Arizona legislature take their marching orders from Glenn Hamer of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, who wants to preserve Gov. Brewer’s corporate welfare tax cuts — the source of the budget shortfall — education funding be damned. Howard Fischer reports, Lawmakers asked to upgrade universities, protect business tax cuts:
Hamer has no suggestions for where lawmakers should find the money or cut expenses. But whatever is done, he said, should not disrupt Arizona’s economy, which he believes means ensuring businesses get the tax cuts they were promised in 2011 and 2012.
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At the same time, Hamer said a key element in the state being competitive is its university system, which he said is “extremely well run.”
He said the chamber also supports an increased emphasis on funding schools based not on pure number of students enrolled but instead on outcomes, like the number of students who graduate on time.
Yet figures from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee show that per-student state funding went from $8,027 in 2006 to $5,144 this school year. And that does not even consider inflation.
Much of that has been made up with higher tuition. But even when tuition is factored in, per-student funding, adjusted for inflation, is 10 percent less than it was in 2006.
Hamer had no recommendation for how to preserve funding for higher education, beyond saying that the state should do nothing “to disrupt Arizona’s economy.”
Hamer is less concerned with funding for the state’s K-12 system, which is at or near the bottom of all states on per-pupil funding. He said there is no evidence to link academic performance with spending, saying Arizona has “pockets of excellence” in some of its charter and traditional public schools.
The source of Arizona’s budget shortfall and its poor education funding are the greedy corporate Plutocrats at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. There are any number of Tea-Publican legislators whom you will hear repeat Hamer’s line that “there is no evidence to link academic performance with spending.” Well, only if you ignore reams of education studies over many years that find otherwise.They are on a mission to privatize public education.
It all boils down to corporate Plutocrats who just do not want to pay taxes for anything.