Tea-Publican response to school funding: kill the messenger


education_appleThe Tea-Publican leader of the Arizona Senate, Andy Biggs, suggested last week that it is Democrats who point out that Arizona’s failure to fund classroom education, the poor performance of its students, and a legislature that made the deepest cuts to education of any state in the nation during the recession and is now refusing to comply with a judgment of the court to pay restitution to Arizona school districts for its theft, is why the economic recovery in Arizona has trailed the rest of the nation so badly.

In other words, kill the messenger. Anyone who dares to criticize the Tea-Publican controlled legislature for its war on public education in Arizona and the failure of its faith based supply-side “trickle down” economics is to be silenced.

Ironic timing given the “Je Suis Charlie” events in Paris last week, dontcha think?

Howard Fischer reported, Senate leader raps Dems over school-funding comments:

The state’s top Senate Republican accused Democrats Friday of hampering the state’s recovery by complaining about the state’s public education system.

Senate President Andy Biggs said claims by members of the other part that the Republican-controlled Legislature has cut $4 billion in education funds in the last half decade are “dangerous and erroneous.” Biggs said while there were cuts for several years early in the recession the state is now spending more than it ever has. And he said Arizona provides “a good education” though it may have “a ways to go.” [Note: None of this is true. See below.]

“But if you want to consistently say to business, ‘Hey, you know what? We have a crappy education system,’ you’re not helping the state, you’re not helping our education system, and you are hindering our economy,” Biggs told an audience of business executive at a forum just ahead of the new legislative session which begins Monday.

In other words, “shut up!” Don’t tell people how awful we are. Well, screw you, Andy. We speak truth to power here. We are never intimidated.

9-4-12sfp-f1The Center on Budget and  Policy priorities prepared this study in 2012 which calculated the top 17 states in per-student spending cuts (full table right). Arizona topped the list with a 21.89% drop in inflation-adjusted dollars between 2008 and 2013. Arizona was already rock bottom in per student spending in 2008.

The inflation adjustment to education funding is the subject of a continuing lawsuit that could subject the state to another $1 billion liability for back years of restitution to the school districts, on top of the $331 million owed in the current budget year.

Even Governor Doug Ducey says Arizona is doing a miserable job in classroom spending. Do you want to tell him to “shut up!” too, Andy? The Arizona Republic reports, 5 things to watch for in Ducey’s State of the State:

Gov. Ducey said the state is currently putting about 55 cents of every education dollar into the classroom, compared with the national average of 62 cents.

“I want to see us add more dollars to the classroom,” Ducey said. “That’s to teachers teaching and students learning, is how I see it.”

The AP reports, Ducey to announce hiring freeze, school funding revamp:

Arizona schools spent 54 percent of their available operating cash on classroom instruction in the 2013 budget year, more than 7 percentage points below the national average, according to the most recent state Auditor General’s report. That lower spending translates into larger class sizes.

The remainder of the school money goes to administration, which is lower than the national average, transportation, food service, building maintenance and IT systems.

* * *

[T]he auditor’s report noted that much of that higher non-classroom spending was due to larger class sizes, a sign of lower-than average state funding, higher energy costs and a larger-than-average poverty rate, which increases the need for student support such as counselors.

Instead of a strategy of kill the messenger and bury your head in the sand to pretend that Arizona provides “a good education,” maybe the Arizona legislature should end its war on public education and get serious about actually providing quality education if it wants to attract new business to Arizona.

Unfortunately, Tea-Publicans in the Arizona legislature take their marching orders from Glenn Hamer of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, who wants to preserve Gov. Brewer’s corporate welfare tax cuts — the source of the budget shortfall — education funding be damned. Howard Fischer reports, Lawmakers asked to upgrade universities, protect business tax cuts:

Hamer has no suggestions for where lawmakers should find the money or cut expenses. But whatever is done, he said, should not disrupt Arizona’s economy, which he believes means ensuring businesses get the tax cuts they were promised in 2011 and 2012.

* * *

At the same time, Hamer said a key element in the state being competitive is its university system, which he said is “extremely well run.”

He said the chamber also supports an increased emphasis on funding schools based not on pure number of students enrolled but instead on outcomes, like the number of students who graduate on time.

Yet figures from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee show that per-student state funding went from $8,027 in 2006 to $5,144 this school year. And that does not even consider inflation.

Much of that has been made up with higher tuition. But even when tuition is factored in, per-student funding, adjusted for inflation, is 10 percent less than it was in 2006.

Hamer had no recommendation for how to preserve funding for higher education, beyond saying that the state should do nothing “to disrupt Arizona’s economy.”

Hamer is less concerned with funding for the state’s K-12 system, which is at or near the bottom of all states on per-pupil funding. He said there is no evidence to link academic performance with spending, saying Arizona has “pockets of excellence” in some of its charter and traditional public schools.

The source of Arizona’s budget shortfall and its poor education funding are the greedy corporate Plutocrats at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. There are any number of Tea-Publican legislators whom you will hear repeat Hamer’s line that “there is no evidence to link academic performance with spending.” Well, only if you ignore reams of education studies over many years that find otherwise.They are on a mission to privatize public education.

It all boils down to corporate Plutocrats who just do not want to pay taxes for anything.

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AZ BlueMeanie
The Blue Meanie is an Arizona citizen who wishes, for professional reasons, to remain anonymous when blogging about politics. Armed with a deep knowledge of the law, politics and public policy, as well as pen filled with all the colors stolen from Pepperland, the Blue Meanie’s mission is to pursue and prosecute the hypocrites, liars, and fools of politics and the media – which, in practical terms, is nearly all of them. Don’t even try to unmask him or he’ll seal you in a music-proof bubble and rendition you to Pepperland for a good face-stomping. Read blog posts by the infamous and prolific AZ Blue Meanie here.


  1. It’s really so quaint how guys like Biggs haven’t realized there’s this new fangled contraption most people have called “the internet”, where they can easily find the information about Arizona schools that Biggs thinks they will remain in blissful ignorance about if only Democrats would shush.

  2. What Republicans don’t understand is that once you cut education to below the point where it can function you Will by necessity have ahigher percentage of money going into administration costs than classroom costs. Why? Because you have to have a Principal at a school, you have to have maintenance people, you have to pay the electric bill, the water bill,, so where do the cuts come? Teacher jobs and teacher salaries. Once you begin cutting those then the percentage of money going to the classroom drops. Therefore the problem is that funding is TOO LOW! I know that people are leaving the state for other states because of our poorly funded schools. And teachers are leaving becuase who wants a job that is paid at basically $10 to $12/hour where you are caught between the administration on the one hand and parents on the other with no support in between.

  3. Ok. We’ll stop complaining about the schools and we’ll start complaining about the all hat cowboy, Andy Biggs, and his sidekick legislature. Is that better?

  4. “Ironic timing given the “Je Suis Charlie” events in Paris last week, dontcha think?”

    You have stated a lot of dumb things in your past postings, but I think this one takes the cake for sheer hubris. You are actually comparing the lack of education funding in Arizona to the murder of innocent people in France!! I realize you are a left wing extremist, but surely even you must have some sense of proportionality.

    Then you go on to state that you “will not be intimidated”. Intimidated by what?!?!? Someone who has a differing opinion? Or are you actually trying to draw upon the tragedies in France as some sort of threat to you? I think your fevered imagination is pushing you off the deep end.

    • You are a fucking idiot. The point I am making is the right-wing’s new found defense of “free speech,” when Andy Biggs is telling critics of the legislature — including this blog — to “shut up!” Damn Dude, you need some serious remedial reading comprehension. Oh wait, you’re just being a dick because that is what trolls do.

      • Your point about free speech was not as clear as you seem to think it was. Since the bigger story out of France was the murders, I thought that was what you were comparing it to.

        Now that you have made it clear, I owe you an apology for making an incorrect assumption. I am sorry about that.

  5. Biggs is delusional. Everything Arizona is and isn’t is the responsibility of his Arizona one party dictatorship. When the truth is pointed out, deny, deny, deny. Biggs sounds like Putin. Schools need the money. Almost no capital money has flowed to school districts in years. But they have plenty of money to waste on unaccountable charter schools. Who still claim they need arm twisted “donations” from parents. Yes you BASIS. Or to hand out tax credits to corporate donations to private schools.

    • The mention of Charter schools drives left wingers crazy in this State, and I understand why: They don’t have control over them and that makes them go insane. They’re documented control freaks and nothing sets them off more than not having it, ESPECIALLY when the thing they don’t control performs superbly.

      You mentioned BASIS as always asking parents for extra money. What you didn’t mention is how HARD parents try to get their children enrolled in BASIS School; nor did you mention the fact that the BASIS School is rated #2 in the State for academic excellence. I would rather give more money to a school showing results that pouring that same money down the drain into the Arizona Education System.

      If your child is attending BASIS and you don’t like the requests for money, you can always pull them out and send them back to the Public Schools where you will constantly be asked for more money. I, for one, am quite happy to have my younger grandkids attending BASIS because of the quality of the education. If I have to contribute a little extra to help the school, I am happy to do so.

      • Well, a real public school is number 1. If I could take the only the brightest students in the state, with the most engaged parents, I could make a great school too.
        What about the other 99% of charters schools? Where’s the miracle we were promised with charter schools? Non existent.

  6. Glad to hear the news about the crappy side of AZ is getting around. Add to that the news that “business friendly” AZ legislature couldn’t get Tesla battery factory because they made it illegal to sell Teslas in AZ.

    • The one party dictatorship is not responsible for that bill. The cloud based party passed it.

  7. So az goppers say the recovery is so flimsy that like a house of cards talking near it will bring it crashing down. Sort of like the emperors new cloths! And they are to incompetent to do anything about.

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