by David Safier

I wrote a long post arguing against Mark Evans' column where he said we shouldn't pass Prop. 204, the initiative which would renew the already existing one cent sales tax and dedicate most of the funds to education. His major argument against the initiative is that we shouldn't "wall off" education funding because it limits the legislature's flexibility dealing with budget issues.

Here's what that flexibility has brought us over the last five years: the largest percentage drop in per student spending in the country. Remember, we were already rock bottom in the nation in our per student spending in 2008 when the counting started.

Per-student-spendingThe study is by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The partial table at right shows the top 17 states in per-student spending cuts (full table below the fold). Arizona tops the list with a 21.89% drop in inflation-adjusted dollars over the five years. Virginia, number 17, cut less than half that much.

Remember, Arizona was already rock bottom in per student spending. Knowing that, our Republican legislature, with Jan Brewer's help, cut that already abysmally low funding by $21.89 out of every hundred dollars we were spending per student, more than any other state.

For people who say they support adequate funding for education yet are worried the legislature will lose its budgeting "flexibility" if Prop. 204 makes sure it spends no less than it did in the 2011 or 2012 budgets, here's the kind of company you're keeping. Republican Rep. John Kavanagh:

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said that if passed the measure would tie the hands of the Legislature in determining where funds would best be spent.

“It removes budgeting flexibility from the Legislature and it does budgeting in a vacuum, not taking into account other needs and wants,” he said.

 We simply cannot trust Republican legislators when it comes to education. They have no problem balancing the budget on the backs of our children. Prop. 204 is our best chance to stop the cuts in education funding.

The complete table is below the fold.