Monday, October 5, 2015

Competing proposals address AZ K-12 school funding crisis

There are four that have been floated. They differ in predictable ways. Here's the motivation via brief background. (Snippets are from the Daily Star/

Arizona's K-12 school funding crisis has gone from a top-tier political issue to an outright crisis in the past five months, as parents, teachers and school officials who long complained about lagging school funding were bolstered by reports showing the state is at the bottom of national rankings for school spending and teacher pay.

Tipping the issue into crisis mode was last month's failure of talks to settle a lawsuit filed by schools that said the Republican-controlled Legislature failed to provide yearly inflation boosts required under the state Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that the Legislature violated the law by not giving yearly increases during the Great Recession, and a trial court judge last year ordered immediate payments — more than $330 million a year. The Legislature is appealing.

The result is a series of proposals to boost funding from Gov. Doug Ducey, Republican legislative leaders, Democratic legislative leaders and Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas.

One way they differ is in how much they raid the state land trust. In fiscal terms, that is, they differ in how much they will take from our principal to fund K-12 now thus decreasing resources in the future.

  • Guv Doozey: "Boosts payouts from 2.5 percent of annual trust valuation per year to 10 percent of the trust's total value for five years, dropping to 5 percent for the next five years."
  • Chief GOPlins in the lege: "Boosts payout from the land trust by $170 million to $200 million a year, substantially less than governor's plan."
  • Superintendent of Educational Civil War: "Uses a combination of general fund money and trust land cash in subsequent years, if approved by voters."
  • Democratic leaders: "Allows additional money from a trust land proposal after new funding is in place."

The second way they differ is in how much money they fork up right now. Democrats and Superintendent Douglas want to achieve immediate benefit by using the state's surplus.

Another way they differ in with respect to tax breaks for private schools. The Dems' plan "Freezes corporate private school donations to $50 million year, stopping an annual 20 percent increase."

And my favorite piece of idiocy would raid the early childhood development program, First Things First, to fund K-12. From the GOPlins in the lege: "Uses some tobacco tax money from the state early childhood education fund, First Things First." So we will be asked to vote on whether to damage our kids before they reach kindergarten or damage them after they are there. Marvelous.

Which brings me back to the difficulties of the Guv Duce and GOPlin plans: they require voter approval and that means that relief to our underfunded K-12 system is off in the future.

[Nevertheless] plans advanced by Ducey and GOP lawmakers have the best chance of being adopted in some form, but the other plans muddy the waters by offering simpler proposals that get money into the classroom sooner. The governor and Republican leaders have been separately meeting with lawmakers to pitch their plans and garner support.

The reason for this assessment, I believe, is the aversion by the majority GOP to raising revenue.

A special legislative session is expected to be called to enact a plan as soon as a deal is struck.

No comments:

Post a Comment