Above: Remember this from 2015? It was all a Big Lie.

The Arizona Constitution requires the state legislature to enact a state budget before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.

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In addition, the legislature really only had two priorites to address this year: (1) the school funding cliff that the last legislature created (they came up with a temporary band-aid fix just for this fiscal year), and Arizona’s pending water emergency. They have failed to address either of these priorities.

Instead they have been pissing away their time on your dime on GQP culture war issues and GQP Jim Crow 2.0 voter supression bills, because Republicans are a post-policy party that is driven by its far-right media to engage in trolling and “owning the libs,” which actually harms all Arizonans.

While Gov. Ducey and legislative Republicans are working on pissing away Arizona’s $5.3 billion budget surplus on their wealthy plutocratic campaign contributors in another unwarranted and ill-advised tax cut (if we are going to have a recession sometime in the next two years, having reserves would be the prudent planning to do), we do know for certain that they have no intention of properly funding public education in the budget, as they do every year, because their goal is to privatize public education for profit.

The Arizona Mirror reports, Arizona again near bottom of states for per pupil spending, Census says:

Arizona was again among the worst states in the nation for per pupil spending on K-12 education in 2020, a ranking that advocates said was embarrassing but not surprising.

The numbers from a recent Census Bureau report said Arizona spent $8,785 per pupil in 2020, ahead of only Utah and Idaho that year. And it was dead last – 51st among states and the District of Columbia – when it came to the amount spent on actual instruction, at $4,801 per pupil.

Both were well below the national average of $13,494 overall and $8,176 on instruction per pupil for that year.

The data “reflects the continued failure by Arizona’s legislature to appropriately invest in our state’s future,” a spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Education said in a statement.

But a spokesperson for Gov. Doug Ducey said the numbers “may not portray the complete picture of what’s happening in Arizona.” C.J. Karamargin said that higher spending does not equal a better educational system.

“If spending were a measure of success, then Washington, D.C., and New York would have the best educated kids in the country,” Karamargin said.

This is the kind of ignorant bullshit that destroyed whatever reputation you once had as a reporter, C.J. Was it really worth selling your soul for so little?

Many advocates remain frustrated by the state being historically and “generally underinvested” in public education in relation to the population, said Chris Kotterman, director of governmental relations for the Arizona School Boards Association.

That was echoed by Beth Lewis, the director of Save Our Schools Arizona, who said many teachers and those involved with the education system have “kind of gotten used to” the state’s low ranking on school funding.

“Schools are not able to afford a music teacher, an art teacher, a classroom aide,” said Lewis, who is also a teacher. “Teachers are trying to be everything; counselors, assistant principals, nurses.”

Arizona remains mired at the bottom of the rankings despite a 17.3% increase in per pupil funding between 2015 and 2020, according to the Census Bureau. But that still lagged behind the national average of an 18.5% increase during the period.

Advocates are hopeful – but not optimistic – that the situation will change next year, with the state sitting on a budget surplus that could be as high as $5.3 billion.

You do realize that Republicans intend to piss it away on their wealthy plutocratic campaign contributors in another unwarranted tax cut? Just as they do every year. A leopard doesn’t change its spots.

They also point to the will of the voters in the form of Proposition 208. Approved by voters in 2020, it would have dedicated more than $800 million in new taxes to schools in the first year, primarily to teachers’ salaries, but it has since been struck down in Arizona courts.

But the Republican legislature and the Ducey-packed Republican Supreme Court killed Prop. 208 and told voters that their desires do not matter. “We decide, and you shall obey!” This is what GQP authoritarianism looks like.

The Arizona Education Association has created an “educator’s budget” that calls for allocating up to $1.2 billion of ongoing revenue in the surplus to the public education system. It calls for increased spending on base salaries, full-day kindergarten, special education funding and career and technical education programs, among other initiatives.

“We’re not asking to go from 50th to one,” said AEA Vice President Marisol Garcia of the educator’s budget. “We’re asking to go from 50th to 30th.”

Garcia said the fact that Arizona voters approved Prop 208 proves that low education funding in the state is “not aligned with the priorities of parents, teachers, students.”

Fun Fact: Many of the voters who voted for Prop. 208 also voted for the Republican legislators who killed Prop. 208. They just don’t get it. If you really want to fund public schools, you have to vote out every anti-education Republican. It’s just that simple.

Kotterman said schools are likely to receive only a fraction of that request, although he hopes lawmakers can increase school funding closer to the $500 million to $700 million range.

The Legislature has until July 1 to approve a budget for fiscal 2023. The Arizona Education Department spokesperson said lawmakers “must pass a budget that supports fair pay for our state’s educators and meets the needs of every student in our classrooms.”

For now, advocates say, with teachers being forced to take on more and more in the classroom, many schools are struggling to hold it together.

“Arizona is not providing even close to an adequate amount of resources for our children,” Lewis said. “We know that our poor children definitely bear the brunt much worse than more well-off areas.”

In September 2021, 25.9% of teacher vacancies in Arizona schools remained unfilled and 55.4% of the vacancies were filled by teachers who did not meet the state’s standard certification requirements, surveys from the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association showed.

Garcia said lawmakers need to listen to what voters said in passing Prop 208.

Dude, the Republican legislature and the Ducey-packed Republican courts told you that they do not care what voters think. You need to listen. No means no. It’s not going to change.

“It’s the voters who are behind this, they’ve passed propositions,” Garcia said. “If parents didn’t want schools to be starved, they wouldn’t be sending their kids to public schools.”

If parents don’t want schools to be starved, they would stop voting for anti-education Republicans.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but pull your heads out of your ass! Ths isn’t rocket science.

Laurie Roberts of The Republic writes, When are our leaders going to quit cheaping out on our kids’ education?

Congratulations, Arizona. Despite voters’ best efforts to change things, Arizona’s public schools remain among the most poorly funded in the nation.

A new Census Bureau report says Arizona invested less in the education of our children than all but two other states (Utah and Idaho) in fiscal 2020. Even Mississippi spent more on its children and isn’t that saying something?

Meanwhile, Arizona’s budget surplus is has passed wow and is headed full-scale toward holy sh … moly.

It seems like a pretty easy fix. If, in fact, our leaders want to fix it.

Arizona spent $8,785 in state, local and federal funds to educate a student during the 2019-20 school year, according to the Census report, released last week.

The national average, meanwhile, was $13,494.

Ducey’s response? To invest in rich folks, not kids

But what, you ask, about the spending increases approved by Arizona’s self-proclaimed education governor [another Big Lie] and Republican legislators – the money that became suddenly available after 50,000 people took to the streets in 2018 to demand better pay for teachers?

According to the report, per-student spending on Arizona schools did, indeed, grow by 17.3% between 2015 and 2020. But nationally it grew, on average, by 18.5%, and nationally schools were already light years ahead of us in their commitment to public education.

So despite marginal growth, we continued to fall behind other states. It’s like a three card monte game. You will always lose.

It’s not for lack of trying. Arizona voters have long placed more support for education as a top priority.

In 2020, voters passed Proposition 208, the Invest in Education Act, raising income taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents to boost school spending.

Gov. Doug Ducey’s response in 2021 was to invest in rich people by slashing their income taxes. And the [Ducey-packed] Arizona Supreme Court’s response was to toss out Proposition 208 as unconstitutional in 2022.

Meanwhile, we’re sitting on $5.3 billion

So here we are, with lower taxes for rich people and the same old poorly funded public schools for the nearly 1 million Arizona children who attend them.

Just the way Republican politicians want it.

Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale [who is not running for reelection because he would not win his primary], has proposed replacing the lion’s share of the nearly $1 billion schools lost when the Supreme Court tossed out Proposition 208. But he’s about as popular as a leper in Republican ranks, given his refusal to buy into the stolen election hysteria and the resulting “election integrity” bills to make it more difficult to vote.

Boyer’s school funding proposal is hardly a heavy lift. The state is sitting on a $5.3 billion budget surplus.

Yet here we are, approaching June with no budget in place for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

This is Arizona’s chance, finally, to stop relegating the education of our children to the bottom of the barrel.

Why don’t leaders care that Johnny can’t read?

Oh, I know. Money alone doesn’t improve student performance. Isn’t that how the refrain goes from the cheapskates who short our children? [See Gov. Ducey’s press flak C.J. Karamargin, above.]

Well, they’re right. Money alone won’t improve our schools.

But a systemic lack of money is guaranteed to result in overcrowded classrooms, fleeing teachers and a depressingly high number of kids who can’t read.

Only two states in the entire country invest less in the education of their students than Arizona.

Meanwhile, our leaders are sitting, literally, on billions of dollars.

The question isn’t, why can’t Johnny read?

It’s why don’t Arizona’s leaders care?

Oh, c’mon Laurie, you already know the answer: Republicans Don’t Want to Reform Public Education. They Want to End It. (excerpt):

This May, in a speech at Michigan’s deeply conservative Hillsdale College, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran sketched out a few principles for Republicans to follow. Conservatives, he said, should no longer consider the primary purpose of school to be training students for employment; instead, they should see it as instilling moral values. When it comes to America’s bitterest ideological fights, “the war will be won in education.” And finally, while Republican education policies had played a vital role in advancing “school choice,” the next step was to get so many families to flee public schools that no future administration would be able to undo the damage.

On one hand, the speech was red meat for a red meat crowd: a politician who made his name attacking teachers’ unions speaking at a school partly funded by former education secretary—and public education foe—Betsy DeVos. But Corcoran’s remarks are also something of a key to making sense of Florida’s tumultuous start to the school year and what it means for the fate of public education in the rest of the country.

* * *

Democrats responded with an outcry: Conservatives were fulfilling their long quest to defund public education and redirect taxpayer money to private schools. Republicans said that they were merely defending parents’ rights. After all, DeSantis’s executive order, “Ensuring Parents’ Freedom to Choose,” was based on Florida’s new “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” passed this spring to enshrine parents’ right to direct their children’s health care, education, and moral upbringing. (The bill was co-authored by a Florida school board member who is both the wife of the Florida GOP’s vice chair and the co-founder of an anti–mask and vaccine mandate parents’ group that has been protesting school board meetings around the state.)

In a way, DeSantis’s move is both. That is, as the governor eyes the 2024 presidential nomination, he appears to be piloting a new education ideology for Republicans. Trading in the decades-old, substantially bipartisan education reform agenda, a formula that was born in Florida, he is mustering a naked attack on the very existence of public schools.

* * *

In 2019, after his first year in office, his administration declared him the “education governor,” charting a course to make Florida “the education state.” [Sound familiar?]

No matter his record, DeSantis is arguably an education governor just by virtue of governing Florida. The state has played an outsize role in influencing national policy ever since Governor Jeb Bush launched an era of education reform that was marked by high-stakes testing, ranking schools with A–F grades, and strong support for vouchers and charter schools. (In fact, critics say, these facets of the so-called Florida Formula have worked to undermine public education: Year-end standardized tests determined the A–F grades each school received, and those grades often had the effect of luring, or driving, students into privatized alternatives. Or, as Corcoran put it at Hillsdale, “We flip on the light and say that’s an F school, immediately change happened. And people became frustrated and angry. And so that’s really changed Florida more than anything.”) Bush lobbied other states to adopt the Florida Formula, drafted part of Republicans’ 2012 education platform, and helped craft an unlikely coalition of conservatives and liberals to support school choice.

Until this month, DeSantis had generally adhered to Bush’s approach. While DeSantis campaigned on getting rid of Common Core curricula—unpopular with both conservatives and some liberals but transformed into a potent Republican cause after a flagging Tea Party charged that it undermined local control of schools—he made up for it with education reformers in other ways. Shortly after his inauguration, DeSantis won then-Secretary DeVos’s praise by declaring that public education should be considered to include private schools, too, because taxpayers fund them. He declared 2020 the “year of the teacher,” then threatened to fire 1,600 teachers rallying for increased public school spending. This spring, he oversaw a massive enlargement of Florida’s voucher program, expanding “education savings accounts” that can be used for anything from private schools to homeschooling, while his administration threatened to defund a public district that sought to close some underperforming charters.*

But while in some regards DeSantis followed Bush’s footsteps, he’s also distinguished himself by importing national, Trumpian fights into Florida’s education system. In March, he unveiled a $106 million civics education initiative—developed, uncoincidentally, under the advisement of Hillsdale College, which directs a line of charter schools, including one run by the education commissioner’s wife—that emphasizes “the influence of the Ten Commandments,” calls protesting “irresponsible citizenship,” and bans “Marxist” critical race theory. In June, the state Board of Education prohibited any instruction that defines American history “as something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.” The same month, DeSantis signed a bill requiring Florida’s public universities to survey faculty and staff about their political beliefs, in the claimed interest of ensuring that students aren’t “indoctrinated” on campus. The bill was accompanied by vague threats from DeSantis to defund schools that demonstrate insufficient “intellectual diversity.”

DeSantis has calculated, rightly, that injecting partisan politics into local decisions about education could serve right-wing priorities. This summer, he vowed to “get the Florida political apparatus involved” in school board elections—nonpartisan by law since 1998—“so we can make sure there’s not a single school board Republican who ever indulges in Critical Race Theory.” Soon after, two Republican state legislators pre-filed a bill calling for a 2022 ballot initiative that would amend Florida’s Constitution in order to require school board candidates to run under party affiliations. One of the authors, state Representative Spencer Roach, cast the bill as a transparency measure. “Parents are outraged by the radicalism of the entrenched educational establishment,” Roach warned, “and incumbent school board members across the country will see a reckoning of historic proportions at the ballot box in 2022.”

All of this may be juicy politics, but public education advocates see a deeper threat. The fact that DeSantis’s ban on mask mandates binds only public—not private or charter—schools, said Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, suggests that “this is not just about the issue at hand but is more broad-based.” In other words, the ban may not be aimed at doing away with masks so much as punishing public schools.It’s the Betsy DeVos playbook,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers: “complete destabilization of public education so that parents will choose private schools.”

And the destabilization is hard to ignore. Behind the “rabbit holes the governor wants everyone to chase down,” Spar said, is the reality that Florida’s public schools opened this August with some 9,000 vacancies among teachers and support staff, as veteran educators leave in frustration and too few replacements apply. In the privatized alternatives Republicans have pushed, critics say that the rapid expansion of vouchers—usage of which in Florida has tripled over the last decade—has led to a proliferation of low-quality “voucher schools”: cheap enough that vouchers mostly cover tuition but so poorly regulated that, as a 2017 Orlando Sentinel investigation found, some schools hold classes in aging strip malls, falsify safety and health records, and employ teachers without college degrees. Florida has also long exempted private schools from the high-stakes, year-end testing that’s used as a cudgel against their public counterparts.

The state has been moving forward on what seem like completely contradictory tracks, said education journalist Jennifer Berkshire, co-author of the recent book A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door. “On one hand, they keep imposing new regulations on their public system. But on the other hand, they’re moving more and more kids into a completely unregulated school choice system where there’s no accountability at all.” What it amounts to, she explained, is “a completely hands-off attitude” toward children’s education—parents are considered the regulators of privatized options, and there is a clear goal “to move as many kids out of the public system as possible.”

And when they go, said Carol Corbett Burris, executive director of the progressive Network for Public Education, they take the funding with them. Child by child, the school coffers empty out. “The end game is really to have an education system that the public doesn’t pay for,” she noted. Rather, parents will pay, with some subsidies for poor children. “It will be a stratified system, where wealthy kids receive the absolute best education; kids in the middle will probably receive a decent education; and kids that are poor and disadvantaged will sit in a big room in front of computers with someone standing at the door keeping them in.”⁠

This is not just the Florida plan but the national Republican Party plan for public education. This is why so many elements of this plan are familiar to you because Republicans in the Arizona legislature have been doing the same thing.




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