Sen. John Kavanagh is lying to your face about the education budget

In Howard Fischer’s reporting today was this passage, State budget plan advances with committee’s approval:

education_appleSen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said the record shows that K-12 funding is increasing.

He cited figures putting all dollars per student at $8,868 in the 2005-2006 year. Kavanagh said that by this year, that figure had increased to $9,318.

But legislative budget staffers said when inflation is factored in, that $9,318 is really worth only $7,799.

And even that does not paint a true picture, as those figures include not just state aid but also federal dollars and locally raised funds.

That legislative report puts pure state aid in 2005-2006 at $3,908 per student compared with $4,040 now, an increase of 3.3 percent. Factor in inflation, and that’s a 13.5 percent decrease.

So John Kavanagh is playing the “fun with facts and figures” game using GOP “fuzzy math” to blatantly lie to your face. Thanks for clearing that up, Howie.

But wait, there’s more dishonesty from the always disingenuous John Kavanagh that requires further explanation for proper context:

No one disputes state universities will take a real hit, with the budget cutting $104 million in state aid, a 14 percent drop.

Cassidy Possehl, student body president at the main campus of Arizona State University, noted the Arizona Constitution requires instruction “shall be as nearly free as possible.”

She said that reflects the founders’ beliefs that universities and the students they graduate are crucial to the state’s economic future. Possehl said graduates are future community leaders, future teachers and future scientists.

“With an affirmative vote on this budget as it stands, you are telling each and every single one of them that their future and the future of this state are a very low priority,” Possehl said.

But Kavanagh pointed out that clause may mean less than it seems.

In a unanimous 2007 ruling, the Arizona Supreme Court acknowledged the constitutional language. And the justices even said that a 39.1 percent, one-year tuition hike approved by the Board of Regents may even be unconstitutional.

But Justice Andrew Hurwitz, who wrote the decision, said judges cannot substitute their judgment for that of the regents — or the Legislature whose funding can drive tuition hikes.

Howie could have been more clear about this if not limited by column space, I suppose. Cassidy Possehl, student body president at the main campus of Arizona State University, is referring to the Arizona Constitution:

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.

Kavanagh is being flippant about the holding in Kromko v. Arizona Board of Regents (2007) (.pdf), in which a unanimous court held: “we hold that the issue presented in the students’ complaint – whether the 2003-04 tuition increase runs afoul of the “as nearly free as possible” provision – is a nonjusticiable political question.” This does not mean that the legislature is free to do as it pleases as Kavanagh seems to suggest. The Court went on to state:

We can conceive of no judicially discoverable and manageable standards – and the students have suggested none – by which we could decide such issues, either individually or in the aggregate. . . . The issue of whether tuition is “as nearly free as possible” is thus a nonjusticiable political question.

Our holding that the issue presented in this case is nonjusticiable is not a determination that the 2003-04 level of tuition is constitutional. As we have previously noted,

A determination that an issue is a political question is “very different from determining that specific [governmental] action does not violate the Constitution. That determination is a decision on the merits that reflects the exercise of judicial review, rather than an abstention from judicial review that would be appropriate in the case of a true political question.”

Forty-Seventh Legislature, 213 Ariz. at 485 ¶ 7, 143 P.3d at 1026 (quoting United States Dep’t of Commerce v. Montana, 503 U.S. 442, 458 (1992)) (alterations in original).

We hold only that other branches of state government are responsible for deciding whether a particular level of tuition complies with Article XI, Section 6.

Nor do we today hold that all funding decisions by other branches of government are insulated from judicial review. In some cases, there will be a judicially discoverable and manageable standard for measuring the constitutionality of a funding decision. In Roosevelt Elementary School District No. 66 v. Bishop, 179 Ariz. 233, 877 P.2d 806 (1994), for example, we concluded that a statutory funding scheme for public education violated the “general and uniform” requirement in Article XI, Section 1. That decision rested on the premise that there were judicially discoverable and manageable standards for determining whether the school system was “general and uniform.” In contrast, it is impossible for courts to determine by a similarly objective standard whether tuition is “as nearly free as possible.”

Roosevelt Elem. School Dist. No. 66  v. Bishop (1994), is recently back in the news, because our lawless Tea-Publican Arizona legislature is once again violating the consent decree entered in that case and a new lawsuit is in the works to be filed.  The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reported, Lawsuit will seek funding for school maintenance:

A public interest advocacy group is planning a lawsuit alleging that the state has unconstitutionally underfunded building maintenance and soft capital for school districts, which could force the state restore hundreds of millions of dollars of budget cuts made in recent years.

The Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest plans to sue on behalf of several school districts and taxpayers, said attorney Tim Hogan. The Glendale Elementary School District’s governing board in December voted to join the lawsuit as a plaintiff, and Hogan said he plans to bring in several other school districts, along with property taxpayers from districts that have approved bonds to make up for funding shortfalls.

“It will allege that the current system is unconstitutional because it doesn’t provide any dedicated capital funding to school districts sufficient to ensure that they meet the state’s minimum standards,” Hogan said of the lawsuit. “School buildings have to be renovated. They have to be repaired. They have to be maintained. And all of that requires significant dollars.”

Hogan said he could file the suit within the next month.

And let’s not forget that the Arizona Supreme Court has also ruled against our lawless Tea-Publican state legislature in Cave Creek Unified School District v. Ducey ( CV–13–0039–PR 2013) finding that the legislature violated Prop. 301 (2000), a ballot measure referred to the voters by the legislature, which requires the legislature to adjust the “base level” education funding formula for K-12 each year in accordance with inflation. The Court further held that our lawless Tea-Publican Arizona legislature violated the Voter Protection Act, Prop. 105 (1998). The case was remanded to the trial court.

This case is currently before Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Catherine Cooper, who has ordered the state to adjust base funding for schools in this fiscal year to $3,560 per student, a collective increase of about $317 million (this amount is now higher). Ruling on school funding (.pdf). This order has since been appealed.

The second part of this case, the back payments owed for previous fiscal years, is on hold for a judicially supervised settlement conference to which  the parties have agreed to participate. Given the budget being pursued by our lawless Tea-Publican legislature, there is no evidence that they intend to negotiate in good faith or enter into a fair and just settlement.

It is clear to me that the legislature intends to exhaust all appeals and to not pay the lawful judgment of the court or to settle Cave Creek, which is the position taken by John Kavanagh shortly after Judge Cooper entered her judgment in Cave Creek. Our Tea-Publican Arizona legislature believes that it is above the law and is accountable to no one in a court of law — or even at the ballot box.

In what state, other than Alabama perhaps, is such flagrant government lawlessness tolerated by the citizens of the state? What is wrong with the morality of the citizens of a state that would idly permit or even actively enable such government lawlessness?

20 thoughts on “Sen. John Kavanagh is lying to your face about the education budget”

  1. Kavanagh was missing in action last Monday at the annual AFL-CIO Rally at the State Capitol,and didn’t line up for the FREE food like other Republicans like Rep. Jay Lawrence(former KTAR Talk Radio Host),ect

  2. Sen. Kavanaugh,

    I have a very honest question. Do you think that it is a conflict of interest for you to teach at a college while voting to either fund or take away their funding? I believe that this may violate the law. Two, since you do teach at a community college and voted to cut their state funding to 0, why are you still teaching when your actions appear to go against the overall mission and show that it is obvious you don’t care for community college which has shown itself to be a remarkably profitable investment. I believe you should resign as a teacher or from the senate.

  3. Senator Kavanagh, I finally had the time to look at the video where you explain your remarks. See for yourself:

    http://azleg.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=13&clip_id=15450

    It starts at about 3:55:29. You say that we’re in tough times and cutting other areas of the budget but that you’re adding over $100 million to K-12 education. In your explanation of your vote you say nothing about the inflation adjusted figures for education spending which shows that state spending on education has been decreasing since 2005-06. Touting a $100 million increase in K-12 spending in the budget without the broader context described above is misleading in my opinion, and your explanation of your vote didn’t provide that context.

  4. I’m late to this party, but the failure to be clear regarding the impact of inflation is not by itself the problem. Seems to me that it’s the combination of using nominal dollars and going back TEN YEARS as a basis for comparison.

    Consider how the same tactic could be used to argue that we’ve increased our higher education spending, despite the huge cuts in this budget. One simply could compare the higher education budget for the upcoming year to the budget for a year back in the ’60s and, voila, we’ve increased our higher education budget.

    So, is Brian correct that this was “fundamentally dishonest.” If the discussion had been about the increase or decrease over a short period, I’d say no. But when you’re dealing with a separation of ten years, making comparisons in nominal dollars, even if you later acknowledge inflation, doesn’t cut it.

  5. Senator, I understand you’re busy, but when you find the time please tell us where we can find your remarks, so we can judge for ourselves the truthfulness of your assertions.

  6. I totally agree with AZ Blue Meanie where he writes: “In what state, other than Alabama perhaps, is such flagrant government lawlessness tolerated by the citizens of the state? What is wrong with the morality of the citizens of a state that would idly permit or even actively enable such government lawlessness?” I currently have virtually no faith that our legislature will respond to the will of the people. What is wrong with this picture?

    • We know many people think the same of the Roberts Gang of Five, but only Our opinions matter (because People Aren’t the Koch Party, My Friend)! We think Alito is dishy (in a classwar kind of way)!

  7. I did not conceal the inflation-adjusted figures during the Approps hearing. You should have watched the hearing or its archived tape before making baseless accusations. That is poor journalism and blogging. Talk about the pot calling…

    • Sen. Kavanagh, pretending that the state has really increased education funding when in reality the funding is worth less due to inflation is fundamentally dishonest because it ignores the erosive effect of inflation. Also it’s misleading to cite spending figures which include federal government spending on education simply to suggest that the state is adequately supporting education. My wife was on the Amphi School Board and told me how the state hasn’t appropriately funded capital expenses for our school districts. Finally my daughter who graduated from the U. of Ariz. “Teach for Arizona” program left the state to get a teaching job in Omaha Neb. because Neb. pays its teachers 33% more than Arizona does. That’s why there’s a teaching shortage in Arizona. My family & I know this: you & your fellow Republican state politicians are wrecking public education in Arizona. That’s the simple truth, no matter how hard you have tried to mislead us about it.

      • We can argue about whether something else I said was spin or not but I stand by my comment. I did not conceal the inflation figure as reported.

        • Senator Kavanagh, you didn’t reveal the inflation figure during this exchange with Senators Farley & Cajero Bedford. In fact you said, “We’re increasing spending. We’re going in the right direction.” That’s certainly not true if inflation is taken into account. In fact the opposite is true.

          See for yourself:

          http://azleg.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=13&clip_id=15450

          The exchange is at 3:06:35 to 3:08:35

          • If you keep watching the video, you will see that I do acknowledge it voluntarily. You need to watch the entire discussion.

          • Senator Kavanagh, please tell us the time in the video where you voluntarily acknowledge this.

          • When I was explaining my vote and voting on that bill. Just keep watching. I am on the floor voting now, so I cannot turn on the video to find the time.

          • It is 2 hours and 1 minute into the hearing. Those who publish misleading or incomplete information should correct it, when they become aware of new information.

      • Greed is good, but only when I’m the greedy.
        Why do teachers hate children? We need education reform!

    • You do know that this is quoted from Howard Fischer’s report, right? Take it up with Howie, he wrote it.

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