Gov. Ducey’s ‘nothing burger’ of a proposal for K-12 education funding


Tim Steller of the Arizona Daily Star made a salient point in his column today, Steller: Ducey plan could work, but only if …:

To understand Gov. Doug Ducey‘s new proposal for increasing school funding, look at the knotty problem from his perspective.

He undoubtedly hates the stigma of leading what is now officially the state that funds public education at the lowest rate of all 50. He also seems to understand that we need to fund education better to improve Arizona’s economic prospects.

But — and this is the key — he can’t raise taxes. That’s been his bedrock principle, his campaign promise, and the idea from which all other budget decisions flow. And business groups were starting to talk about a ballot issue to increase the sales tax for education.

mime-artist-trapped-in-glass-boxSo Ducey’s boxed himself in — he knows we need to increase funding for education, but he can’t raise taxes to do it, even if we could afford the increase and his allies in business want it.

Gov. Ducey is one of those annoying mime’s pretending to be trapped in a glass box –Dude, there is no glass box! Gov. Ducey is “trapped” only in his imagination by his slavish devotion to the GOP’s First Commandment of “no new taxes.” Even Saint Ronnie Reagan raised taxes 11 times for chrissake! Ronald Reagan Myth Doesn’t Square with Reality:

“Ronald Reagan was never afraid to raise taxes,” historian Douglas Brinkley, who edited Reagan’s diaries, told NPR. “He knew that it was necessary at times. And so there’s a false mythology out there about Reagan as this conservative president who came in and just cut taxes and trimmed federal spending in a dramatic way. It didn’t happen that way. It’s false.”

Our lawless Tea-Publican Arizona legislature has routinely violated two provisions of the Arizona Constitution out of ideological opposition to government, public education, and taxes:

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 Tea-Publican 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.”

It’s time to get over it, start complying with the Arizona Constitution, and to do what is constitutionally required by raising taxes! What would Saint Ronnie Reagan do? He would raise taxes!

Instead, we get this “nothing burger” of a proposal from Gov. Duce for K-12 education funding. The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports, Ducey Land Department plan expected to bring $2.2 billion for schools:

Gov. Doug Ducey wants increase the amount of money K-12 schools receive from sales of state trust land, which he expects to provide an additional $2.2 billion over 10 years without raising taxes or taking money from elsewhere in the general fund.

The beneficiaries of the Permanent Land Endowment Trust Fund currently receive 2.5 percent of the fund’s value each year, 93 percent of which goes to K-12 schools. Under Ducey’s plan, that payout would jump to 10 percent for the first five years, and 5 percent for the second five years.

The Governor’s Office said K-12 schools will receive an addition $1.8 billion during the first five years of the plan, and another $400 million in the second five years. The plan is scheduled to expire in 2026.

Based on the Ninth Floor’s projections, the plan would provide an additional $360 million to K-12 schools annually for the first five years, which would drop to $80 million during the second half of the plan. Under the 2.5 percent formula, schools receive about $80 million per year from the fund.

That would give schools an extra $300 per student. The per-pupil funding level is currently about $3,400.

* * *

“Our public schools say they need more money to do their jobs. Under this plan, they will get those resources. Again, these are new dollars. No smoke and mirrors. No bait and switch,” he said.

Because the fund’s distribution formula is set in the Arizona Constitution, Ducey’s plan will require voter approval. He will ask the Legislature to refer to the proposal to the 2016 general election ballot.

A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau (.pdf) affirmed that Arizona is dead last in state funding support for K-12 education. “The report, which uses fiscal 2013 figures, shows that Arizona spends $7,208 per pupil [includes all sources of funding]. In comparison, the US on average allocates $10,700 per pupil.”

Do the math: Arizona trails the national average by $3,492 per pupil, and this Tea-Publican ideologue is talking about a pittance of only $300 more per pupil. This is an increase of only 0.0859 percent per pupil. (Using just the state funding portion of $3,400 per pupil, it is an increase of only 0.0882 percent per pupil). And it’s only for five years before that amount will be reduced and eventually terminated in 2026. This is a big fat “nothing burger” of a proposal.

Even if approved by voters, it could not be acted upon by the legislature until January 2017 in the FY 2018 budget. The school districts would not see this pittance of additional funding until the fall semester in 2017. Gov. Duce’s proposal does nothing to alleviate the current K-12 education funding crisis.

And while Gov. Duce “said he will continue asking the Legislature to provide inflation funding for K-12 schools,” his current fiscal year budget did not comply with Judge Katherine Cooper’s judgment and order to add $315 million to this year’s fiscal budget, and the state is still fighting the $1.3 billion back payments portion in court. The man is bald-faced a liar.

DuceyClassroomsDespite promoting his budget as putting “classrooms first,” many school districts say they are being shortchanged.

Depending on the outcome of a high-profile K-12 funding case, Arizona could also be on the hook for an additional $340 million in annual education funding. In addition, the districts are seeking about $1.3 billion in back payments that they say was illegally withheld over the past several years.

Moreover, Gov. Duce’s “nothing burger” of a proposal does absolutely nothing to alleviate the education funding crisis in the state university system. The state universities are still “screwed, blued and tattooed.”

There are also some concerns that have been expressed about what this proposal would do to the long-term health of the state trust fund for education. I can’t really comment on this without seeing the details of the proposal, which is still a work in progress and has not been released. Gov. Duce’s proposal will just be a starting point. God only knows what it will look like after our lawless Tea-Publican Arizona legislature runs it through the sausage making process.

Gov. Duce’s proposal is not a panacea for Arizona’s education funding crisis, which is a manufactured crisis created by the ideological extremism of our lawless Tea-Publican Arizona legislature and governor, and their flagrant disregard for and violation of the Arizona Constitution.

How long are the voters of this state going to tolerate such flagrant disregard for the law, and the abuse of their children at the hands of extremist Tea-Publican elected officials? It’s time to throw all the bums out!


  1. Your “Do the math” math is wrong. It should be 8.59 percent and 8.82 percent, respectively.

    • So my calculator is defective? We are talking about 8% rounded off either way. This is a pittance after the millions that you and your friends have stolen from the school districts over the past several years ($1.3 billion estimated). The Court has already ruled that what you did was illegal and in violation of Prop. 301 — a ballot measure that was referred to the ballot by the legislature! And you refused to comply with the court’s order in the current budget. I will note that you did not disagree with any analysis, only trolling a figure.

  2. The last paragraph of this post asks how long the voters of Arizona are going to tolerate disregard and abuse. I would stipulate that the current voters of Arizona are quite happy with both. They strongly voted in another four years of a right wing regime across the board for all state level offices. They continue to elect working majorities in both legislative chambers, so that Democratic lawmakers are simply placeholders in Phoenix.
    What has to change is that working people in Arizona have to start voting. It is so easy to both register to vote and to vote. It might take 15 minutes to vote every two years, yet only 30% of us are voting. Folks spend hours on stuff like Facebook, but can’t be bothered to spend 15 minutes every two years to do something that is so important for their well being.
    My semi-serious solution is to set up a statewide lottery with a million dollar prize. Every Arizona citizen is eligible to win. A name is selected two weeks after the November election. If you voted, you win. Otherwise, the pot goes to 2 million two years later.

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