Today, Friday Jan. 13, Guv Doug Ducey, will roll out his budget. What it will contain for public education is not expected to be good news, the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports in School advocates to Ducey: Show us the cash.
Early hints of details of the governor’s proposal aren’t encouraging to some. For example, a proposed pay raise for teachers was revealed to be a 2 percent pay increase phased in over several years. AEA President Joe Thomas said that minimal investment won’t be enough to keep teachers in classrooms “if it’s going to sound more like a dollar a day.”
Would-be educators attending Arizona’s colleges and university don’t have any reason to consider teaching in Arizona when neighboring states offer salaries $10,000 to $15,000 higher, according to Dick Foreman, president of the Arizona Business and Education Coalition.
Many who do stay in Arizona to teach quickly leave, according to Stephanie Parra, a lobbyist with the AEA.
“I’ve not had any teacher tell me, ‘If I just had another dollar a day, I could make ends meet,” Thomas quipped.
Dana Naimark, president of Children’s Action Alliance, said state lawmakers must realize that every decision they make to fund programs or cut taxes dips into the pool of resources available for schools. AZ Schools Now will focus on raising education funding as a concern when Ducey and lawmakers propose new or expanded tax cuts, and will lobby for their rejection, Naimark said.
“Each tax cut proposal certainly needs to be evaluated on its own merits, but in the big picture, if we cut taxes with no replacement revenue, we are shrinking the funding available for K-12 education,” Naimark said.
Lawmakers also need to revisit funding for private school tax credits, which have grown tremendously since implemented in 2007, one by 20 percent each year, Naimark said.
The cap on corporate tax credit for contributions to private school tuition organizations is now $51.6 million. By 2021, it will balloon to $128 million, according to data provided by Children’s Action Alliance.
Every tax credit claimed is a reduction in tax revenue for public schools, Foreman noted.
“We had big fights for years in the courts about funding inflation for schools at the (Consumer Product Index) level, or at 2 percent. So to have this grow at 20 percent a year is a clear policy statement that we want dollars going into private schools and not public schools,” Naimark said. “I don’t think that reflects the values of Arizona voters and parents and taxpayers and business CEOs.”
A recurring theme among education groups is the need to couple education funding with revenue, specifically ending tax breaks. It is hard to see how Ducey’s many education proposals can be funded while still cutting taxes each year as he has promised to do. The numbers just don’t add up. Here is another report from the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required), Education community applauds Ducey proposals, but urges end to tax cuts.
Ducey spent a quarter of his [State of State] speech offering a laundry list of proposals to tackle the state’s teacher shortage and direct more resources to low income, rural, and tribal schools.
And while he’s proposing to add and expand public school programs, the governor said he won’t raise taxes to do it. He promised in a part of his State of the State speech on January 9 to lower taxes with his government reforms.
“Now, I’m not promising a money tree. I can’t. There’s no pot of gold, or cash hiding under a seat cushion,” Ducey said. “And unlike Washington, we don’t print money, and we won’t raise taxes.”
School groups, however, also want the Legislature and governor to end tax cuts, intervene on scheduled funding cuts for charter schools, and start the process of renewing a six-tenths of cent tax that has helped fund schools since 2000.
Dana Naimark, executive director of Children’s Action Alliance, which is part of a larger coalition of school groups called AZ Schools Now, said Arizona’s approach to public school funding over the years has been crisis-driven with no long-term plan in place.
Naimark said conversations about school funding at the Legislature have to include conversations about tax cuts.
The Governor talks a good line, but the bottom line is that he has to walk the line. He has yet to do so.
Realistically, for him to be serious about enacting some of his most important proposals, like increasing the funding of schools, raising teacher pay and expanding full day kindergarten, the cost would begin at $100 million and move upwards toward $400-800 million. Meanwhile, most budget projections agree the governor has about $24 million in loose money to play with — the rest is accounted for—with lots of places those dollars can be spent. I suppose Ducey could free up a few more dollars with draconian cuts to other government agencies. But $100 million? $400 million? $800 million? Hardly.