No Republican Should Be Returned To The Arizona Legislature Because of the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ For Public Education That They Purposefully Created

Republicans are anti-public education, what these White Christian Nationalists disparage as secular “government schools.” Their objective is to totally privatize the pubic education system into a for-profit private education system which would allow for religious indoctrination (of the White Christian Nationalist variety, naturally) and not having to comply with non-discrimination provisions in federal law, as the activist radical Republican U.S. Supreme Court increasingly interprets the First Amendment as a “get out of jail free card” for discrimination by the religious so long as one claims it is part of your “individual deeply held religious beliefs.” This is a slippery slope to White Christian Nationalists not having to comply with any laws “because the Bible tells me so.”

In 2018, voters rejected  a legislative referred referendum, Proposition 305, thus repealing a law enacted by the state legislature to expand of the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) program to make all public school students eligible to apply for an ESA.

In 2020, voters approved Proposition 208, Invest in Ed, to increase the income tax on income above $250,000 (single filing) or $500,000 (joint filing) and distribute the revenue to teacher salaries, schools, and education programs.

The Ducey-packed activist radical Republican Supreme Court of Arizona reversed the will of the voters effectively nullifying your constitutional right to citizens initiatives. Voter-approved Invest in Education Act ruled unconstitutional.

The Republican-controlled Arizona legislature was then free to impose Gov. Ducey’s “flat-tax” giveaway to corporations and the wealthy, Arizona Supreme Court throws out ballot measure aimed at repealing flat tax. The Republican-controlled Arizona legislature also said “fuck the will of the voters,” Prop. 308 (2018), and again voted to expand the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) program to make all public school students eligible to apply for an ESA.

The Republican-controlled Arizona legislature also referred a series of measures to the ballot this year (Props. 128, 129, and 132) which, if you foolishly approve, would forever nullify your constitutional right to citizens initiatives and referendums.

The Ducey-packed activist radical Republican Supreme Court of Arizona also blocked a citizen initiative rolling back Republican-backed election law changes and expanding voting access. Arizona Supreme Court keeps voting rights measure off ballot.

ALL of this is in direct retaliation for voter approved measures in support of public education. Authoritarian Republicans got their way despite the will of the voters being in opposition. “WE decide and you shall obey!

Now we are faced with another “fiscal cliff” in public education funding – for the second consecutive year – as Gov. Ducey and legislative Republicans are purposefully creating a crisis in public education funding to drive families from “government schools” into for-profit private schools using the newly expanded Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) program. They are just devious and evil.

How much more abuse from authoritarian Republicans are Arizona voters going to tolerate? They are putting your children’s future at risk, for god’s sake. Get mad, get even – vote them all out of office! Hold them accountable.

Howard Fischer reports, Arizona public schools face massive budget cuts:

Public schools across Arizona will have to cut their current spending by nearly 18% by the end of the year unless state lawmakers act to authorize them to actually use the money they have.

State schools chief Kathy Hoffman warned legislative leaders Tuesday that the constitutional spending limit for the current school year is $6.4 billion, about $1.4 billion short of the $7.8 billion lawmakers allocated to the schools.

The problem: Without specific permission from state lawmakers, the $1.4 billion in funds is off limits to schools.

Republican legislative leaders are showing no interest in acting before the end of the calendar year, saying the issue can wait until the next legislative session that begins in January.

Fiscal irresponsibility, kicking the can down the road to a new governor and a new legislature. If you want it taken care of properly and permanently, you must elect Democrats who support public education.

“When session begins in January, the issue will be taken care of, just as we have done for numerous years in the past,” said [outgoing] Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott.

[Outgoing] House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, said he is willing to consider bringing lawmakers back to the Capitol after the election. But he said he’s “not optimistic” that he can find enough support for a special session, particularly as it would take a two-thirds vote to waive the limit.

And C.J. Karamargin, press aide to [outgoing] Gov. Doug Ducey, said his boss won’t call a special session absent a showing of support. “Show us the votes,” Karamargin said.

It is true that schools have bumped up against the limit in prior years. And there have been what amount to last-minute — and one-time — fixes.

‘Needs to be addressed immediately’

But Fann and Bowers will not be coming back with a fresh crop of legislative leaders. And that runs the risk that this issue won’t be a priority.

What makes that particularly problematic is the possibility of having to cut $1.4 billion with less than a full fiscal year left.

So even if lawmakers were to act in January, that effectively would force schools to cut 36% of what they were planning to spend in the last half of the school year.

“A lot of schools will be shut down,” said Chuck Essigs, lobbyist for the Arizona Association of School Business Officials, as the law requires those cuts to be spread among all schools, large and small.

Hoffman said the need for immediate action by lawmakers is acute.

“They’ve already waited far too long, and this issue needs to be addressed immediately,” she said.

Hoffman said legislative inaction “is strangling the decision-making of our school leaders who want to move forward with budgeting and want to be implementing the additional funds the legislature allocated last session.”

“They want to put that money into teacher raises and operational needs,” she said.

It isn’t just Hoffman who wants to avoid that possibility with a more immediate solution.

“This is the only issue with which I agree with Kathy Hoffman,” said Tom Horne. He is the Republican candidate running against Hoffman.

And Horne said he’s not convinced that the plan by GOP leaders to shelve the discussion until next year is a good idea.

“It’d be a lot safer if they do it now,” he said.

Unusual factors converge

The budget limit was approved by voters in 1980.

Based on figures at that time, it is adjusted annually for inflation and student population growth.

What is causing the current problem is the convergence of several unusual factors.

First, the limit is always based on the prior year’s school numbers. Enrollment remains down due to COVID.

The bigger problem is actually due to one the legislature created in seeking to provide financial help.

In 2000, voters approved Proposition 301 to levy a 0.6-cent sales tax to fund education, including teacher salaries, for 20 years. Voters exempted those revenues from the aggregate expenditure limit.

Facing expiration of that tax, lawmakers agreed in 2018 to a new, identical levy to pick up when the old one expired. That would keep the money flowing through 2041 without interruption.

However, the legislature never exempted what the new levy would raise from the expenditure limit. Essigs said that alone amounts to anywhere from $600 million to $800 million of the money now coming into schools.

Moreover, to balance the budget last decade, lawmakers cut dollars from various capital funding accounts.

With the state flush in revenues, those accounts are now fully funded. But the additional dollars that were restored to schools also helped to push total statewide expenditures above the constitutional limit.

Lawmakers can — and have — raised the limit in prior years, but each time only on a one-year basis, and each time waiting until there were just months remaining in the school year.

‘Hopefully they will understand the problem’

Essigs said there are dangers in waiting until next year in hopes there will be the votes to waive the limit for the current school year. And it starts with the anticipated turnover of lawmakers.

“We’re going to have a lot of new people at the legislature,” he said. And Essigs said while there was an understanding among the lawmakers who approved the current education budget to follow up and raise the limit, many who are familiar with that arrangement — which does not exist anywhere in writing — will be gone.

Complicating that is the requirement for a two-thirds vote.

“You’re going to have a whole bunch of new people, depending on what happens next Tuesday, who have not addressed this problem before,” Essigs said.

“Hopefully they will understand the problem,” he continued. “But I don’t see that there’s any guarantee.”

House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, who also will be gone next year, said he has not given up hope there will be a special session to address the problem.

“Hopefully, after the election, cooler heads prevail, and we can actually get this thing done,” he said. And Bolding said it’s only appropriate that the current crop of lawmakers deal with the issue.

“This legislature is the one that approved the spending,” he said. “So we need to go ahead and finish the next step.”

Bolding also said he believes that two-thirds of lawmakers would vote to approve the waiver if a special session is called and the item is put up for a vote.

That, however, would be contingent on “Do Nothing” Ducey, who also will not be back next year, who has the power to call lawmakers back to the Capitol to address the issue.

Lawmakers who want to address the issue now are being “hamstrung” by Ducey’s inaction, Hoffman said.