Now Governor Ducey has, through his office of the Strategic Planning and Budgeting, clarified his position on the proposed $113 million reduction in state funding to District Additional Assistance [DAA] (the five percent reduction to non-classroom dollars.) To get right to the point of what this is all about, we need only to look at the main message of his clarification: “it does not change the amount of the proposed cut, but makes it clear that district options to comply can’t impact classroom spending.”
I think the really critical words in this “clarification” are “district options to comply can’t impact classroom spending.” Please note that the Governor didn’t stipulate that the cuts must not impact the classroom, but rather, that the cuts must not impact classroom spending. Okay, so I guess Governor Ducey thinks that the classroom spending determines the quality of education in our state? If that’s the case, we’re already hosed. Well, Arizona is actually 47th in the state with regard to “administrative” costs, so we evidently don’t have a problem with classroom spending. What we do have a problem with, it spending on education per pupil. From 2008 to 2013, we had the highest cuts per pupil in the nation. Although the state leadership would like the public to think as “non-classroom” spending as high paid superintendents and principals, the truth is that it includes bus drivers, food servers, librarians, speech therapists, and maintenance workers. In many cases in fact, teachers absolutely can’t accomplish their missions in the classroom without the help of the “non-classroom” personnel that support their efforts.
The biggest “tell” for me is that the Governor is that Districts would have to certify to the state that no reductions were made to classroom spending to comply with the state’s new reduction to District Additional Assistance. This is actually a change from what originally was said which was that the Districts would have to certify there was no impact to the classroom by virtue of the cuts.
However the Governor wants to spin these proposed cuts, these cuts ARE to K-12 public education. In addition, although our legislature seems to abhor all things federal, this five percent cut to “non-classroom” dollars is a lot like the federal sequestration cuts. Across the board cuts may be easy to dictate, but they aren’t strategic and they don’t support improvement.
My school district has done much to cut non-classroom spending in an effort to become more efficient. This five percent reduction however, won’t recognize our efforts, but rather, will lump us in with every other district whether or not they’ve focused on becoming more efficient.
We need leadership from our state government, but this isn’t it. We need the school finance formula to be totally revised and we need a strategic approach to how to improve K-12 public education in our state. This can’t be political, it must be strategic. It won’t be easy, but it is the right thing to do. Come on Governor Ducey…LEAD!