Earlier this week, Education Secretary Arne Duncan joined Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to visit the Roosevelt School District’s Martin Luther King Jr. Early Childhood Center, and met with representatives of groups with a stake in education to discuss the need for high-quality preschools. Education secretary: Early childhood programs key to state, nation:
“Wherever I go, there is huge, huge need,” Duncan said after visiting an inner-city school district’s early childhood education center.
But too often that need goes unaddressed because states don’t provide programs that prepare children for school, he said.
“Thousands of children whose parents want them to have the opportunity to enter kindergarten ready and prepared but are denied that simply because they don’t have those opportunities – there is something fundamentally unfair and unjust about that,” Duncan said.
Duncan’s message fell upon the deaf ears of his host, Gov. Doug Ducey who said Early-education is an investment Arizona can’t afford:
Gov. Doug Ducey touted the importance of early-childhood development Tuesday but then defended the fact Arizona puts no money into those programs for most students — or even funds full-day kindergarten.
And the governor even refused to commit to backing congressional reauthorization of a federal law that has given some money for preschool programs in Arizona.
“Research shows that a quality early childhood education experience can yield significant long-term benefits on overall development of a child,” he said. And Ducey made a particular point about children being able to read.
“It’s the most profitable investment we can make in their future,” the governor said.
But Ducey, in questions after his comments, said that does not mean Arizona intends to put some money towards such programs.
“We know that there’s a good return on investment,” he said. But Ducey said people need to recognize the state’s financial condition.
[Corporate welfare tax cuts and special interest tax exemptions and credits must come first! And we will never raise taxes — ever!]
Even with that, he claimed that more money is being spent now on K-12 education than any time in the past. But that figure is true only when including what local taxpayers raised as well as federal dollars. State aid to education was close to $500 million higher in 2008.
[In other words, Ducey is still using GOP fuzzy math to lie to Arizonans about what is actually in his budget.]
Then there’s the question of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Duncan said the law not only needs to be renewed but also expanded.
He said 59 percent of the 4.1 million 4-year-olds in the country are not enrolled in any sort of publicly funded program.
In Arizona, the figure is 81 percent of the nearly 93,000 4-year-olds.
And even that is misleadingly low: More than half of youngsters in preschool are in federally funded Head Start programs.
Ducey said he would not commit to backing renewal of the federal program — at least not the way it’s currently set up.
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Ducey said he would prefer block grants, where Arizona gets the dollars, without strings attached, “to give us the flexibility to invest in what we believe are programs that work, like early childhood literacy.”
This is right-wing code for “I want to redirect federal aid to public education to private and parochial charter schools, so I can make my charter school campaign contributors fabulously wealthy.”
On Thursday, it was the universities’ turn. Ducey: University funding cuts might not be restored:
Gov. Doug Ducey suggested Thursday that the funding cuts just imposed on the state’s three universities might be permanent.
And he would not rule out future reductions in state aid.
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[T]he governor sidestepped a question by board of regents member Bill Ridenour about whether Ducey would commit to restoring some of the $99 million he and the Legislature cut in university funding last month, that on top of funding reductions in prior years. [Report: Arizona had steepest higher-ed cuts, highest tuition increases in the nation.]
The governor responded by citing “the difficulty of the financial situation of the state and the shortfall that we faced coming into office.”
[Once again, corporate welfare tax cuts and special interest tax exemptions and credits must come first! And we will never raise taxes — ever!]
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Ducey was no more forthcoming about promising future funding. He said the state now puts about 7 percent of its $9.1 billion budget into universities.
“Of course, there’s opportunity for that to go up,” he said. “But we need a growing economy to make that happen.”
[GOP “trickle-down” rainbows and unicorns! It can happen!]
But Ducey said the state’s finances forced him and lawmakers “to make difficult and permanent decisions.”
Except the one rational decision that they absolutely refuse to make: increase state revenues by cancelling corporate welfare tax cuts, or raising taxes by eliminating special interest tax exemptions and credits.
Nor was he willing to say that the current level of funding — about $650 million compared with more than $1 billion just eight years ago — is the floor.
The governor did tell the regents that they cannot simply depend on state funding to keep the university system operating. But he refused to say what percent of costs should be borne by students versus taxpayers, saying only that college should be “as affordable as possible.”
Wrong, and wrong! The Arizona Constitution in plain language declares that the universities can depend on state funding, and the state is to provide that university education to students for “as nearly free as possible”:
Article XI, Section 6: The university and all other state educational institutions shall be open to students of both sexes, and the instruction furnished shall be as nearly free as possible. The legislature shall provide for a system of common schools by which a free school shall be established and maintained in every school district for at least six months in each year, which school shall be open to all pupils between the ages of six and twenty-one years.
Article IX, Section 3: The legislature shall provide by law for an annual tax sufficient, with other sources of revenue, to defray the necessary ordinary expenses of the state for each fiscal year. And for the purpose of paying the state debt, if there be any, the legislature shall provide for levying an annual tax sufficient to pay the annual interest and the principal of such debt within twenty-five years from the final passage of the law creating the debt.
Our lawless Arizona legislature has for years been in violation of the Arizona Constitution because: (1) it is failing to provide for the cost of public education, and (2) it refuses to raise taxes sufficient “to defray the necessary ordinary expenses of the state for each fiscal year.”
Mark Killian, who chairs the board of regents, said after the meeting that the board cannot count on Ducey or the Legislature to provide the funding he says is needed.
Killian has asked the board’s attorneys whether it can sue the state for violating a constitutional provision that requires instruction be “as nearly free as possible.” He said he is hoping for an answer soon.
And Killian said there’s another alternative if lawmakers and the governor won’t budge.
“I think you’ll see a move at the ballot box by the folks through initiative or other process to force the Legislature to take care of the universities,” Killian said.
I assume that Mr. Killian is contemplating a dedicated education tax of some kind. I would urge Mr. Killian and educators to instead pursue the ballot measure for which I have long advocated:
I have explained numerous times over the years what is the necessary prerequisite to any meaningful tax reform in Arizona and to restoring fiscal sanity to our budget process — repeal Proposition 108 (1992), the “Two-Thirds for Taxes” Amendment, Arizona Constitution Article 9, Section 22. This is where tax reform begins.
As I have posted previously:
I consider Prop. 108 the GOP’s “weapon of mass destruction.” Here is why: it only takes a simple majority vote of the legislature to approve cuts to tax rates, or to enact tax exemptions and tax credits (tax expenditures). But these tax revenue reducers become permanent in practical reality because Prop. 108 requires a two-thirds super-majority vote in both chambers of the legislature to increase tax rates, or to reduce or eliminate any tax exemption or tax credit.
Since Prop. 108 was enacted by voters in 1992, the Arizona legislature has not increased tax rates, and has not closed “tax loopholes” as all the pundits decry that we desperately need to do. A tyranny of a minority of anti-tax zealots in the Arizona legislature are empowered to prevent any such tax reforms: 11 members in the Senate, or 21 members in the House.
This is how the anti-government, anti-public education, anti-tax GOP game is played: in each legislature since Prop. 108 was enacted, the legislature has enacted tax rate cuts and/or special interest tax exemptions and tax credits. This has had the intended effect of reducing tax revenues, creating a structural revenue deficit which results in a budget deficit. Because raising tax revenues is always off the table in the ideological GOP, the legislature takes out its meat axe and cuts the budget to essential state services like public education, health care and infrastructure (primarily roads).
The Arizona GOP can manufacture a perpetual budget crisis in Arizona by a simple majority vote for yet another one of their faith based supply-side “trickle down” tax cuts that have not magically produced the unicorns and rainbows they promised us. And because a tyranny of a minority of anti-tax zealots can prevent any reversal of these tax policies, Prop. 108 thus becomes a “weapon of mass destruction” of Arizona’s government, and of sound public policy.
The editors of The Arizona Republic(an), the servile GOPropagandists of the Arizona Republican Party who dutifully endorsed Dicey Doug Ducey for governor last fall, today engage in some of the most egregious spin I have read in quite some time to support their boy Ducey. Universities should grab Ducey’s olive branch:
The governor addressed the Arizona Board of Regents Thursday, inviting the board and the presidents of the state’s three universities to work with him to develop a “sustainable long-term business plan” that cuts administrative costs, makes college more affordable and sees the state as only one of many funding sources. [See the Arizona Constitution above.]
He wants the plan ASAP so it can be part of the legislative agenda his administration crafts for next year.
In other words: Come up with ideas the governor can support, and the governor will be your advocate in the Legislature.
Republican businessman Ducey would be an effective champion for the universities at the GOP-controlled, free-market-loving Legislature. And they need one.
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Board President (and former lawmaker) Mark Killian, a staunch conservative while in the Legislature, floated the idea of suing the state for violating the constitutional mandate to provide university instruction “as nearly free as possible.”
Please. Another lawsuit against the state might be satisfying on a visceral level. But lawmakers will not necessarily follow a judge’s ruling on education funding, as we saw with litigation involving K-12.
In other words, our lawless Arizona Tea-Publican legislature and governor are above the law. Their conscious violation of the Arizona Constitution and wilful disregard for the lawful orders of a co-equal branch of government, the judiciary, is the new normal — they are your masters, and you must obey. The Arizona Republic(an) has spoken. That is all.
The role of the media is to hold those in power accountable for their actions. But the editors of The Arizona Republic(an) fail to do so. They are apologists for our lawless Arizona Tea-Publican legislature and governor. They are not worthy of the title “journalist.” They are political hacks. In a just world, they would be fired and frogmarched out of The Republic(an) building for all the world to see and publicly humiliated. One can only dream.