Why you should vote no on Prop. 123, then kick every lawless Tea-Publican out of office


Dianne Post, a Phoenix attorney, points out that Proposition 123, the school inflation adjustment funding settlement to our lawless Tea-Publican legislature’s illegal actions, is a misleading sham in an op-ed at the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required), Prop 123 – It’s not sustainable and it’s not a solution:

education_appleWhile many good-hearted people have encouraged supporting Prop. 123 because they claim it is a good start and injects badly needed money immediately into the classroom, unfortunately, they are wrong. First, there will be a lawsuit regarding whether or not the enabling act requires Congressional approval to implement the Proposition. During the lawsuit, which could take several years, no monies will be sent to classrooms.

This first point is so obvious that I am surprised by the supporters who claim that “we have to support Prop. 123 as a first step, because it’s the only way we can get money into the classrooms.” Former state Treasurer Dean Martin warned of this outcome in his testimony before the legislature on Prop. 123. K-12 funding plan advances despite treasurers’ criticism:

In his testimony, Martin warned senators that if the state hikes the trust-fund distribution to 6.9 percent from the current 2.5 percent, the higher distribution would erode the trust’s investment power for future schoolchildren. It also would violate the state’s Enabling Act, he said, and at the very least would need congressional approval for any distribution change.

* * *

The federal government granted Arizona 10.5 million acres of land at statehood, with the money from sales or leases earmarked for various beneficiaries, primarily public education. It is a perpetual trust, meaning it must be managed to the benefit of all recipients through the decades. Today, the state still holds 9.3 million of those acres.

Martin warned the plan lawmakers are considering would violate the trust’s long-standing rules and invite a court challenge. “You’re trying to settle an inflation lawsuit on education, and you’re going to end up with an inflation lawsuit on the trust fund,” he said.

Exactly! And classrooms will not see the money promised by Prop. 123.

Diane Post continues:

Even if the Legislature paid everything ordered and agreed to, it will not change Arizona’s ranking on education. It will not fix the education problem in Arizona, and it will not provide sustainable funding for our schools. For 20 years our pupil-teacher ratio has steadily worsened and is now 40% greater than the national average. In 1992, Arizona funded our students at 80% of the national average for state-sourced funding; today it is 55%, the worse in the country. Our state-sourced funding per teacher has dropped from 70% to 40% of the national average.

A separate piece of legislation that would go into effect if Prop. 123 passes would increase the base level funding from $3,426.74 to $3,600.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the national average is $12,401 per public school student enrolled in the fall. Arizona’s base level is at a third of the national average and remains in the bottom. The minimal funding of Prop 123 is not a solution.

Yet on Feb. 22 the Senate passed SB1279, (HB 2482) empowerment scholarships. As Senator Farley said in debate, “This is the end of public education in Arizona.” From 2000-2012, private school tuition credits claimed increased 287%. During the same time, state appropriations per public school student decreased 10%. Given these serious structural problems of long standing and the Legislature’s track record of underfunding education, it is clear that the Legislature’s idea of solving the problem of funding public schools is to eliminate public schools.

As Linda Lyon pointed out in Living in La-La Land?:

HB 2482 stalled due to public outcry over lawmakers trying to settle the inflation funding lawsuit with a reduced payment via Prop. 123, while siphoning even more away from public schools with the proposed total expansion of vouchers.

“To the rescue”, rides Senator Lesko, the Arizona ALEC Chair, with her bill, SB-1279. Introduced as a “strike-everything” bill, it was fast-tracked for consideration and met the Appropriations versus the Education Committee to no doubt provide some cover for the contentious bill. Instead of full expansion, Lesko’s bill settles for expansion to free- or reduced lunch program eligibility which for a family of four translates to an annual income of no more than $44,863. The bill passed on an 8-5 vote. [See The Arizona Republic, School-voucher expansion bill is back with twist.]

In that the voucher is only worth $5,400 and the average cost of private school tuition is Arizona is about $10,000, it is highly unlikely that those lower on the socio-economic scale will be lining up anytime soon to ditch their district schools. Rather, Lesko’s bill serves to again chip away at the foundation of our public school system and yes, the very core of our democracy.

I cannot emphasize often enough that our lawless Tea-Publican legislature has never demonstrated any good faith in this matter.  There is simply no reason to believe them or to trust that they would comply with Prop. 123 any more than they did in failing to comply with Prop. 301. Their ultimate goal is the privatization of public education in Arizona in contravention of the Arizona Constitution, and they will let nothing stand in their way, including the law and the courts.

Diane Post continues:

The language of the proposition makes it clear that the Legislature will not pay even the amount outlined in the proposition. The proposition has many “triggers” that allow the Legislature to reduce or even stop the distributions from the land trust. If the trust fund is negatively impacted (by a complicated comparison with prior years) they can go back to 2.5%; if sales tax and employment rate are less than 2% growth, they can suspend payments; if the percentage of education funding in the general fund is at 49% or more, they can suspend payments and lower base levels. The proposition specifically says that the lost money does not have to be repaid in any subsequent year or distributed from any other public monies. No provision in the Constitution requires that the Legislature give money to for-profit prisons, dole out welfare to large corporations, or give tax breaks to the richest citizens. In fact, there are provisions saying they shouldn’t. The Arizona Constitution Article XI (10) does say that the Legislature has a duty to tax in order to fund constitutionally mandated education.

I have argued this point repeatedly. Our lawless Tea-Publican legislature is in violation of the Arizona Constitution out of blind adherence to an ideological doctrine of “no new taxes” ever!  The only way to break their stranglehold on government is to remove them from office.

Yet the proposition includes in it a permanent change to the Constitution to reduce voters’ power. The Voter Protection Act says a referendum passed by the voters cannot be repealed and can only be amended if the amendment furthers the purpose of the law and has 75% of the legislators’ approval.  The intent of the Legislature is nakedly visible with four bills introduced this session: HCR2023, HCR2024, HCR2043, HCR2047. These bills would make it easier to repeal voters’ intent and put several hurdles in the way of passing a voter initiative.  By refusing to fund the mandatory 2% inflation increase (which was a voter passed initiative) and not funding the base level, the Legislature re-directed (stole) the money specifically earmarked for education by the voters and used it for tax breaks to corporations. They got caught and sued. Now they want to make sure that doesn’t happen again by changing the Constitution to reduce voter power.

It’s hard to say no to our struggling schools but in reality they won’t get money immediately anyhow. The money they eventually will get is minuscule compared to what is needed to bring Arizona up to par. The legislature has clearly signaled they have no intention of coming up with a plan for permanent, sustainable and sufficient funding for public schools and they want to decrease voter power to make sure we can’t force them.  Vote no on Prop. 123 and let’s elect legislators who truly care about Arizona’s kids and Arizona’s future.

This is the correct response to a lawless Tea-Publican legislature. Rather than accede to their threats and intimidation and extortion demands, and to surrender our constitutional rights to enforce laws we pass by citizen initiative, it is long past time that the citizens of Arizona hold these lawbreakers accountable for their lawlessness and to remove them from office en masse.

This point is also made by Harriet Young, a longtime Democratic Party activist from Flagstaff, in a letter to the editor of the Arizona Daily Sun. Be suspicious of billionaires for Prop. 123 :

One comment bears attention. Andrew Morrell commented on the funding from Prop 123 to education: “There is no other way for this kind of money to get into the fiscal year this year.” This implies that Arizona has no choice.

I beg to differ. In November of this year you can vote against the Republicans who are supporting this kind of sham reform. You could go to the polls and vote for Democrats who are pledging to fund education the old fashioned way: with adequate taxation.

Exactly, Harriet. We hold the power in our hands to transform the state of Arizona, if people would just get off their asses and go vote! (Sign up for PEVL and vote early to avoid voter suppression at the polls).


  1. Promises again “No New Taxes.” And “but…but…but…it’s for the kiddies…” No, it’s not. The Arizona Republic reported that …”many schools say they would use the money for teacher raises to help fight the statewide teacher-retention crisis.” (from ballotopedia.org)
    Also, Ballotopedia.org states that “the amendment does not require schools to use the funding for a specific purpose. It could be used for purposes such as building maintenance, salaries or technology.” In other words, good luck that it makes it anywhere near the kiddies, the teachers or the classrooms.
    That said, however, I have a solution for the school funding dilemma.
    I noticed just recently – don’t know why it took me so long to actually see this in my bill – that there is $1.00 fee attached to each City of Phoenix municipal water bill that goes to fund the Jail System. $1.00 a month….from every water user in Phoenix! I would like to know: Why hasn’t anyone advocated for this kind of solution instead of penalizing ONLY property owners for the education debacle?

  2. Someone please explain to me WHY; After the schools basically won the lawsuit and the only outstanding item was to schedule a hearing to determine the retroactive amounts, that the ASBA , AEA , AASBO & attorneys on behalf of them and Cave Creek Unified & other school districts agreed to this Prop 123?
    What forced their hand? The Wall Street Journal stated, “Assuming it passes, Mr. Ducey might want to consider a career in hostage negotiation.”
    The answer that this is the only way schools will get some money right now is flawed because the funds are currently in the “bank” as sustainable revenue over expenses from FY15 and continuing to grow in FY16
    Ducey’s own 3 year projections base on the budget he presented to legislature on Friday shows we will have a $1.6 Billion surplus in 3 years.
    So, the money is there now for the schools.
    Vote NO on Prop 123 and then vote in new legislators that will understand that they represent the people of AZ.

  3. The explanations are too long and wonky compared to their lie that this will add funding to education. I suggest we concentrate simply on how radical it is to amend our state constitution, especially at the behest of Biggs and Ducey.

    • Just say “Prop. 123 is a sham! The schools are not going to see any money right away because the state is just trading the current lawsuit for a new lawsuit.” Pretty simple to understand.

  4. Thanks for this post. I tend to hyper focus on the national level stuff, and this was a nice quick read to get up to speed (a little) on Prop 123.

  5. This is an insightful and revealing post, but I fear that Prop 123 will pass because of who is backing it…and who is afraid to speak out against it. When the Arizona Education Association and the Arizona School Boards Association signed on to this monstrosity, they legitimized it and also ensured that prominent Democrats would either back it, or at least not speak out against it. Have we heard a single well-known Democratic legislator call on voters to oppose Prop 123 and take the course of action called for in this post? No! Instead, we hear mealy-mouthed submission about this is the best deal we can get and that we must get money into our schools now. These same people put firth the absurd scenario that victory for Prop 123 sets the stage for truly pro-child candidates to win in 2018.

    Since when does a successful strategy come from making common cause with people who have been kicking you in the teeth for decades? Do the people who are joining arms with Ducey take time to think about how he will exploit a Prop 123 win to further his own ambitions in this state? After years of pursuing the valid and noble goals of the lawsuit that we won, do we really believe that this speculative and potentially dangerous proposition is the way to affirm our victory in the courts?

    The educators and Democrats who crafted Prop 123 with Ducey and his allies will read AZ Blue Meanie’s post and this comment and roll their eyes at both our naivete and willingness to jeopardize the “windfall” that will come from passage of this measure. They are unwilling to keep fighting for what is right because they believe that the people who have been shitting on kids and public schools since the early ’90’s hold all the cards and we have to take the deal they are offering. Our only hope is that the electorate holds enough discerning voters who will see through the wealth of pro-123 propaganda that will come out of their well-funded campaign, especially in the absence of a strong anti-123 effort. Expediency and retreat are not rallying cries that anyone who cares about kids and their schools should heed.

  6. The last paragraph says “sign up for PEVL…..” So what is PEVL and how do you sign up for it?

  7. This is what I have been saying about this prop. I only hope the voters of this state get off their asses and actually do what it takes to change things around here. Thank God its a presidential election year. Otherwise I doubt they would.

Comments are closed.