Welcome to the singalong edition of the Farley Report. Tear into those raunchy guitars
It seems fitting that shock rocker Alice Cooper is an Arizonan, because his 1972 hit "School's Out" could be the perfect anarchic anthem for Governor Ducey and the Legislative Majority these days. More on their latest attacks on education after a word from your sponsor…
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"I'm as conservative as anybody, but it's not conservative to have bad schools. It's not conservative to have bad roads. It's not conservative to have budget struggles every other year." -- a conservative Republican Western governor, quoted in the Wall Street Journal recently.
Sadly, that's not OUR governor, who seems more interested in maintaining his record of never having supported any revenue increase ever (thus keeping his billionaire backers happy) than attending to the education funding crisis created by his colleagues in the current legislative majority.
The governor quoted above is Brian Sandoval of Nevada. He just shepherded through his Republican-majority legislature a $1.1 billion increase of taxes, primarily on corporations, in order to pay for English-language learners, special needs education, low-income schools, STEM and technical education, all-day kindergarten, and elementary-school literacy initiatives. Even before this funding boost, Nevada was spending nearly twice as much as we do in state support for K-12 public schools.
Let's review the parallel situation this year in Arizona. In March, Gov. Ducey and the current legislative majority rushed through in three days (with most debate in the middle of the night) a budget that slashes education at all levels. It cut $352.4 million from K-12 schools, $99 million from universities, and zeroing out community colleges. JTED career and technical education programs are now headed into a death spiral thanks to the cuts to their budgets.
Last Wednesday, the U.S. Census Bureau issued their annual report on state spending on education. Arizona as of 2013 (the most recent year studied) was dead last in state spending on K-12 public education at $3,116 per pupil. And there have been further cuts in each of the two successive years, a time when other states have been reinvesting in their schools.
Gov. Ducey's response? He held a press conference the next day to announce that, despite his recent actions in signing a budget that slashed education at all levels, he really does support funding our schools. Here's what he's proposing:
His "new" idea involves asking the voters in November 2016 to approve state land trust reform (something that has failed at the ballot for decades due to its complexity and multiple feuding stakeholders) to allow around $300 more per student to be spent on K-12 education in the next five years, cut to about $100 more per student in the following five years, then cut to $0 more after ten years. This is achieved by potentially eating into the principal of our state land trust that is already designed to support education, and puts us at risk of losing it if the stock market goes south again.
If more funding for schools, even at this risk, sounds good, let's keep things in perspective:
You may recall that Gov. Ducey's predecessor Jan Brewer, another Republican with impeccable conservative credentials, successfully championed a tax increase that provided an additional $3 billion for public K-12 schools over three years. Ducey, the leader of the effort to kill the renewal of that funding, is now proposing only around $2.2 billion over TEN years that wouldn't make it into schools until two years from now, if voters approved, and if it isn't routed elsewhere.
Remember those figures from the US Census, again from 2013 before recent cuts: Arizona is 50th in the country in state spending on K-12 students, $2,534 per pupil less than the national average. $300 more would squeak us just ahead of South Dakota for 49th place.
And that's only if this $300 isn't intended to simply supplant the approximately $300 more per student that a judge has already ordered the state to pay to our schools in voter-approved inflation funds, but which the Governor and Legislature have been fighting for years -- refusing to settle despite our school's desperate funding situation.
The problem in education funding in Arizona is huge, caused directly by the Legislature's and the Governor's longstanding addiction to corporate tax loopholes (at least $12 billion a year given away from the sales tax code alone) and corporate tax cuts (nearly $4 billion a year in cuts enacted since 1990). And now, even many of the beneficiaries of that largesse are calling for tax cut rollbacks to fund education.
Governor Ducey, raiding the seed corn just to say you solved the problem doesn't cut it. We need to put REAL money into education by eliminating the corporate giveaways. Now.
That's not an ideological solution, it's just common sense.
Please share this, so the truth can come out. It's beyond time to oust the folks who have brought our education system and our economy to this desperate place.
--> The Pima Association of Governments is seeking public input for transportation plan between now and 2045, and I urge you to add your voice. This is really important stuff -- please fill this out and pass it along. When you are done, it shows you the aggregate responses for folks who have filled this out already. It is quick and informative and well worth your five minutes of time to make sure we adequately invest in high-quality transit, bike and ped improvements, safety, and street maintenance.
--> To end this report on a high note, I want to share my excitement for Ann Kirkpatrick's recently announced campaign for U.S. Senate and invite you to a kickoff fundraiser for her in Tucson.
My first year in the Arizona House was Ann's last and I will be forever grateful for her kind mentoring which really helped to make me who I am today as a public servant. Her knowledge, intelligence, and integrity is unparalleled, and I still have no idea how she has managed to put up with the mess that is the U.S House of Representatives since that time.
I know we hear this all the time from various places, but this time it's true in my estimation. Ann is exactly the sort of person who can create real change in DC, thanks to her authenticity, boundless energy, and dedication to serving her constituents above all else. Her service as a US Senator can positively change the way we are viewed nationally, and enable the rest of us to have our voice in the Senate. I urge you to do anything you can to help her win that seat.
You can join her campaign by coming to the event on Saturday, June 20, at Sam and Linda Polito's house, 75 W Linda Vista Blvd in Tucson, from 12:30-2pm, or simply going to KirkpatrickForSenate.com and signing on. If you can come Saturday, please RSVP to Kevin@KirkpatrickForSenate.com.
Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Senator.
Senator, District 9, Tucson
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