Open Letter to Governor Ducey

It was fitting that your propaganda piece, “Arizona schools win big in my budget” was published in’s “AZ I See It” column. After all, I understand this is your view of reality. But, the fact that it is your view, doesn’t make it factual.

You open your piece speaking of last year: “we protected priorities, like K-12 education…” Not sure how you can claim you protected K-12 education when in 2015, you cut $113.5 million from K-12 district schools and reduced charter additional assistance funding by $10.3 million. This year, you claim credit for “an historic $3.5 billion funding package for schools.” Yeah Governor, you are just a regular education philanthropist, digging deep into the schools own coffers (state trust lands revenues set aside for education funding) to give our schools the money they’ve been owed since 2009. You offered this deal to take additional monies from state trust lands, despite Arizona ending last fiscal year with an extra $312 million in the bank and being on-track to end FY2017 with $621 million. To add insult to injury, you now plan to pad the states’ rainy day fund with an additional $10 million to bring the balance to $470 million. I have to wonder how many corporate tax breaks will that fund?

 Despite your largely unearned grandstanding, I’m going to hold my nose and vote for Prop. 123, because I think it is the only way we will get any significant additional funding for our schools anytime soon. Rest assured though that education advocates throughout the state are going into this eyes wide open. We know there are caps and triggers in the deal that could allow the legislature to cheat our kids yet again. Just know that we will be more vigilant than ever and that “Hell hath no fury” like advocates scorned after negotiating in good faith.

Of course, taking credit for new funding when you are really just restoring it seems to be a trend for you. You claim to be targeting high-need employment sectors with a “new”, $30 million investment in career and technical education (CTE.) Give me a break! This is the same $30 million the Legislature cut from CTE in 2015. It is definitely not a “new” investment and you aren’t even proposing to give it all back at once. Rather, you: plan to give only $10 million per year over three years; only want it spent on certain kinds of programs; and are requiring matching funds from business. House Minority Leader Eric Meyer said “two thirds of the JTEDS across the state will disappear under this plan, it will create havoc.” He went on to question “why we are ‘fixing’ this program that already works so well to train our kids for the workforce.” These programs are proven to produce higher graduation rates, provide job skills for those not necessarily destined for college, and provide employers the skilled workers they so badly need. The reduced funding won’t only hurt JTEDs, but also district schools who get funding for their students participating in the job training programs.

Speaking of reduced funding in district schools, I noticed you didn’t mention that FY2017 will see the implementation of last year’s legislation to change the district funding model to “current year funding” versus the “prior year funding they’ve been using for the past 30 plus years. Essentially, this will immediately cheat our district schools out of one year’s worth of funding totaling $40 million across 64% of Arizona’s districts. And, while you claim this year’s budget proposal makes new investments in our universities, you failed to mention that your “plus-up” is really only $8 million, less than 10% of the $99 million cut in the 2015 budget. As for our community colleges, I note you also didn’t mention restoring any of the state funding you entirely eliminated from Maricopa and Pima colleges in 2015.

I do thank you for inviting all Arizonans to read your budget and join the conversation about it. You do, after all, work for us and we absolutely should give you feedback on the job you are doing. You can bet I’ll visit, read your budget in detail, and comment. I wholeheartedly encourage all my fellow Arizonans to do the same.

Respectfully, Linda Lyon