Governor Doug Ducey, the ice cream man hired by Koch industries to run their Southwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Arizona, self-labels himself, for purely propaganda purposes, as “the education governor.”
The governor’s label would be a joke if his misguided policies did not come with serious and dire consequences for the actual condition of public education in Arizona.
Perhaps the governor should accept responsibility for his policies making Arizona the worst — that’s right, dead last — in public education, as the Republic’s Laurie Roberts describes. Arizona ranks as worst state to be a teacher:
Quick, what is the worst state in which to be a teacher?
If you said Arizona, give yourself a gold star.
WalletHub this week released its annual rankings for the best – and worst – states in which to spend a career in the classroom. The financial services website compared the 50 states and Washington D.C., analyzing 21 key indicators, ranging from income growth potential to class size to safety.
The best states in which to be a teacher: New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut, Pennsylvania.
The worst: Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, Hawaii and finally, down there in our usual spot at the bottom of the barrel, Arizona.
We ranked as one of the states with the highest turnover, the highest student-teacher ratios and the lowest spending per student.
And we ranked as dead last in the number of people expected to be competing for teacher jobs by 2024. Gee, I wonder why.
Lest you think things are looking up, two years ago Arizona ranked 49th overall. Now, we’re 51st.
This is, of course, no surprise in Arizona, where a record number of teachers are either fleeing the profession or moving to states that actually value public education.
The school year has just started but already 526 teachers have quit, according to the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association. Of those, 147 teachers abandoned their classrooms, just walked away and never came back.
The group surveyed 135 school districts and charter schools and found that we are still short 1,328 teachers this year. Another 2,491 classrooms are filled by people who don’t meet standard teaching requirements.
And even they likely won’t be hanging around for long.
According to a recent study by by the Morrison Institute, 42 percent of Arizona teachers hired in 2013 quit by 2016. Among charter school teachers, 50 percent.
Teachers say the equation is simple.
Take a heavy workload divide it by low pay, factor in a lack of respect and support – from our elected leaders but also from parents and administrators — and well, you do the math.
Maybe you don’t think Arizona’s teachers deserve better. But surely our children do.
Low teacher pay and lack of financial support to public education is a direct consequence of the GOP’s First Commandment of “Thou shalt never raise taxes” in their false religion of faith-based supply side “trickle down” economics. Governor Ducey, who has said that he wants to reduce the state income tax to as close to zero as possible, is a true believer acolyte in this false religion.
Goveror Ducey’s and the GOP’s blind faith in a disproved and discredited economic theory as the basis of their false religion has serious and dire consequences for the quality of life in Arizona. Arizona poverty remains among highest in nation despite recent improvements:
Despite posting a sharp decrease in its poverty rate over the last two years, Arizona continued to have some of the highest poverty in the nation in 2016, the latest Census numbers show.
Arizona’s poverty rate of 16.4 percent was well above the national rate of 14 percent that year, and ranged from a high of 38 percent below the poverty line in Apache County and a low of 10.1 percent in neighboring Greenlee County, according to the Census’ American Community Survey.
The numbers did not come as a surprise to advocates and economists, who said the state is still struggling to climb out of the recession and is hindered by a poor education system and low-wage jobs. The state had the eighth-highest poverty rate in 2016.
“We still have far too many (in poverty) and we’re still doing far too little,” to pull them out, said Cynthia Zwick, executive director of the Arizona Community Action Association.
The federal poverty threshold for a family of four in 2016 was $24,563, according to standards set by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Census Bureau said that Arizona saw a 1.8 percent decline between 2014 and 2016 in the number of people living below the poverty line, which means an estimated 91,000 Arizonans climbed out of poverty in that period. But more than 1.1 million in Arizona still fell below the threshold.
The national poverty rate fell by 1.5 percent in the same period, according to the Census.
Now, there is an important qualification to make to the census data. There is the state of Maricopa, where nearly two-thirds of the population lives, and then there is the state of Arizona, where the rest of us live. There is substantial wealth in the state of Maricopa. Tea-Publican legislators from places like Mesa, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and Fountain Hills never have to associate with the poor, so they do not believe that poverty exists and they have no understanding, empathy or compassion for those with less means living in the state of Arizona.
This is the point made by economist Elliott Pollack, who said the focus on statewide numbers is “literally meaningless,” because it fails to capture the gap between starkly different communities in the state.
Taken by itself, the Greater Phoenix area has a lower poverty rate than the nation and a higher median income increase, Pollack said, while rural communities struggle.
“We’re talking about totally different animals,” Pollack said.
Median income in the Phoenix area was 107 percent of the national average in 2006 before dropping “like a ton of bricks” during the recession, to bottom out at 91.3 percent of the U.S. average, he said. But Valley incomes have climbed back above the national average since then, he said.
Still, Zwick said, the number of jobs paying less than $21,000 rose to 28 percent of the state’s employment in 2016. She said entry-level positions that people might have used as a springboard in the past are now often contracted out and “jobs with retirement programs are few and far between.”
“All of this can be tied to wages,” Zwick said. “The employment structure has changed.”
About half of the people who lost jobs in the recession took low-wage positions where they were “under-employed,” or overqualified and underpaid with fewer benefits, Zwick said.
Remember that Governor Ducey and our lawless Tea-Publican legislature, along with their allies in the Arizona Chambers of Commerce and “Kochtopus” organizations, did everything in their power to defeat last year’s Minimum Wage initiative, which also permits local governments to establish benefits of employment such as paid time off. Minimum wage is nowhere close to being a living wage, but even this small improvement in the lives of Arizonans was adamantly opposed by the GOP and its allies.
At the same time, Governor Ducey and our lawless Tea-Publican legislature continued to enact tax cuts for their political allies and contributors.
Governor Ducey also supported the recent zombie “Trumpcare” bill — despite not knowing what was in it — which would have meant Arizona to lose a third of health care funds under Graham-Cassidy, as well as a loss of premium tax revenues, creating a budget shortfall. Arizona would also “see Great Recession-type job losses next decade” under the zombie “Trumpcare” bill, with the loss of more than 21,000 jobs and nearly $1.9 billion in economic output in the first year in 2020. Arizona may face serious job losses under ‘Obamacare’ replacement bill. An economic “genius” he’s not.
What was our governor’s response to the defeat of this terrible-for-Arizona zombie “Trumpcare” bill? Ducey: Immediate health care fix more important than ‘procedure’:
“I know to the senator (McCain) procedure seems to be of paramount in importance, things like ‘regular order,’ ” Ducey said. That refers to the normal procedure for hearing bills, having them go through committee hearings and providing a chance for debate.
The governor, for his part, said following these procedures “are not as high of a concern for me as a governor.” More to the point, Ducey said that McCain’s refusal to go along because of those procedural concerns, coupled with objections from several other GOP senators, is bad news for Arizonans.
“We’ve got citizens that need a fix now,” the governor said, a need that Ducey said transcends any concerns about time-consuming procedures.
“So to me the result happening sooner rather than later is more important than that,” he said. “And I guess we can go to work with the Senate having a priority on regular order.”
Just to be clear, the zombie “Trumpcare” bill would have blown up the health insurance market and resulted in millions of Americans losing health care coverage, particularly those with pre-existing conditions and those on Medicaid. And as noted above, it would have been financially devastating to the state of Arizona. But Governor Ducey is good with all that. Again, an economic “genius” he’s not.
Also note the governor’s lack of concern for legislative norms and democratic procedures of governance: following these procedures “are not as high of a concern for me as a governor.” Yeah, we’ve seen plenty of Ducey’s disdain for democratic procedure since he has been governor. If you care about democracy, this guy represents a serious threat.
The right-wing ideologue Ducey has been a disaster for Arizona. He’s got to go.