Thursday, April 13, 2017

Vouchers for all: Ducey's two-step is a betrayal of K-12 teachers

Yesterday there were responses to Guv Doozey’s signing of the latest vouchers for all bill. I’ll cover three of them. But let’s first step back and put this in the larger context of what Il Duce and his co-conspirators in the legislature promised public school teachers. Remember that Prop 123 was supposed to be the first step in some grand plan to fund public ed.

Step 1: Ducey’s choice

Remember also that there were deep disagreements among even those ardent supporters of public schools. I came out against Prop 123 because it offered the voters a fiendish choice: More on Prop 123: Two views on what happens if it passes.

Readers should know by now that I am not a fan of Prop 123 which I characterize as Ducey’s Choice. Prop 123 pits the immediate need for financial help to public schools against the longer term health of education funding. Further, I contend that Prop 123 is a cleverly designed mechanism of effecting a transfer payment from future education funding to tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy: #123TaxBreaksForMe. The result, come May 17, voters who support public education will split their votes because any vote is flawed. The voters will individually decide how to inflict more damage on public education in the state of Arizona. That’s Ducey’s Choice.

Some people saw it like that. Others argued that public ed has been hurt by the political powers in this state for so long that any money was better than no money.

Linda Lyon, in a response to comments on one of her posts at Blog for Arizona (and restorereason.com), argues succinctly for passage of Prop 123.

… every time someone says they don’t to “give Ducey a win” by voting for Prop 123, it just feels like it is more about politics than about the kids. I say pass 123 and then fight twice as hard.

Ultimately the voters agreed that Prop 123 should pass. Guv Il Duce declared victory and promised Step 2. Guv declares passage of Prop 123 as Step 1, begins Step 2 by taking the day off.

Step 2: Vouchers for all

Arizona’s teachers, at least those most honored, were, to understate it, not happy with Step 2. Howard Fischer reports in the Daily Star’s Arizona teachers respond to Doug Ducey’s voucher expansion: ‘We got played’.

Christine Marsh, the 2016 Teacher of the Year who teaches at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, said putting more money into programs that let parents use tax dollars to send children to private and parochial schools amounts to “a nuclear bomb … dropped on public education.”

Beth Maloney of Sunset Hills Elementary School in Surprise, who held the title in 2014, was more pointed.

“It’s hard not to feel betrayed when we went out and stumped for (Proposition) 123,” she said.

In a letter signed by all six of the most recent top teachers and delivered to Ducey, they told him they expected something different following last year’s vote.

“We envisioned a collaborative and engaging discussion about solutions to many of the problems that plague Arizona schools as a result of inadequate funding,” they wrote. “After you signed the voucher bill on Thursday, we realized that we needed to inform you of not just our individual opinion, but the views of teachers throughout the state.”

They came away from the meeting disappointed. Maloney said she believes the only reason Proposition 123 passed was because teachers helped convince the public at large.

“And now there is a very real sense of we got played,” she said.

“Well, that’s just not true,” Ducey shot back when asked about what the teachers said. “I think you’re taking words out of context.”

Maloney, however, was clear in her views. “I think the taxpayers of Arizona just got played,” she said.

Of course they did. That was Ducey’s Choice.

Slap #2: Ducey is the 0.4% governor

Ducey acknowledged that the teachers “expect more.” But he said that’s in line with his own views.

“I’m going to be working with the legislature so we can get every available dollar into K–12 and into the classroom and into teacher salaries,” the governor said. And he said his $114 million proposal for more dollars into public education proves that.

That package, however, includes just $13 million for across-the-board raises for teachers, which comes out to about a 0.4 percent increase.

And what does that do for funding public education? Not so much,

A report by the staff of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee shows the funding picture for public schools has not improved.

In 2008, the state put $5.15 billion into K–12. Divided up into the number of children in school, that came out to $4,989 per student.

The estimated figure for this year is $5.07 billion, or $4,528 per student.

And that’s not considering inflation. When that is factored in, that’s worth just $3,911 in 2008 dollars.

Ducey sidestepped the question about that trend, commenting that Prop. 123 adds another $300 million a year into K–12 education.

But JLBC staffers said the current year state funding figure — the one with total dollars less than 2008 — includes those additional dollars.

A “stinging betrayal”

The Daily Star’s Tim Steller weighs in: Steller: Ducey’s voucher support a stinging betrayal to teachers

The red mark left by this slap is not fading.

It’s been five days since Gov. Doug Ducey signed the bill expanding private-school vouchers to thousands more Arizona students.

Among public-school teachers and families, the pain remains. Frequent repetition of the mantra “school choice” is not soothing.

The last six Arizona teachers of the year, all those chosen from 2012 through 2017, signed a letter to the governor Monday that says, among other things:

“There is a teacher shortage of crisis proportions in this state. There were 2,000 unfilled positions, four weeks into this school year. Funneling public money into private hands with a total lack of oversight will only exacerbate that crisis; we have the third highest class sizes in the nation, and the voucher bill will also exacerbate that; we are funded at 49th in the nation, and the voucher bill will ensure that we remain near the bottom for the foreseeable future because more resources will be drained from public schools.”

Then comes the kicker: “However, we already rank #1 in school choice. Is there a correlation between the above statistics and this one?”

What really hurts these teachers is that they supported Ducey’s Prop. 123 last year, the initiative that allowed the government to tap the state land trust to help settle the lawsuit over school funding. It won by 51 percent to 49 percent. Without the teachers’ support, Ducey would have suffered a humiliating defeat.

And this is their reward?

Worse: We know this is just the next step of many, until Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, as these vouchers are known, become the monster that eats the state’s public-school budget.

We could have known that from experience. The Legislature first approved vouchers for children with special needs in 2011. Then children of parents on active military duty, foster children, children in failing schools and children on Indian reservations were added. Finally, this year, Sen. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, proposed vouchers for all.

Putting caps on enrollment in the program was the only way to get it through the Legislature and past skeptical Democrats and Republicans. Unfortunately, a few of those Republicans were also gullible, as the Goldwater Institute quickly made clear upon the passage of the bill last week.

Darcy Olsen, Goldwater’s CEO, shocked the handful of legislators who pretended this wasn’t the plan all along when she said in an email Thursday, “There is a cap at 5,000 new kids per year; we will get it lifted.”

Of course this was the plan all along. The bill passed each house of the Legislature by just one vote, so any one legislator voting in favor could have recognized the fallacy of the caps and killed it. But they chose not to.

There are also problems with the accountability of the measure. The Arizona Republic found the data on ESAs in a messy state when it made a records request to the Arizona Department of Education. This is how Rep. Regina Cobb, a Kingman Republican who switched to a yes vote on the measure at the last minute, responded to the state of the data in the Republic’s story.

“We don’t know where it’s (the money) going to. We have nothing. How do we make decisions as lawmakers, as far as funding a program, when we don’t even know if it’s working?”

She said that after casting a deciding vote in favor. That’s indefensible.

(It should be noted that Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas disputed the Republic’s claims about the inadequacy of the data. In a poor imitation of a well-known American politician, she called it “fake news” from a “failing news organization.”)

Step #3: Ducey faces challengers for 2018 election

And that brings me to the third reaction. I’ll quote from an email from David Garcia.

Last Thursday, under the cover of darkness, Governor Ducey landed the most devastating blow to public education in state history. No parent involvement. No student input. No teachers’ voices. Make no mistake, if Ducey’s voucher plans are enacted, hundreds of millions of dollars will be siphoned away from public schools and our schools will likely never recover.

We must fight back. We must put an end to Ducey’s destructive path we have been on for far too long. We must take a stand.

So, today I launched my campaign for Governor of my home state of Arizona.

It won’t be easy. But I’m not in this race for easy. I am ready for the attacks to come …

I believe we need leaders with a vision towards what we want to work for, not simply what we are against.

  • If we are going to cut, let’s cut tuition for community colleges and universities.

  • When we create jobs, let’s remember that we have 15 Counties in Arizona.

  • When we give incentives and breaks, let’s give those breaks to working families and not to corporations and the wealthy.

Take a stand with me. It’s time we fight back.

Garcia is an Associate Professor at ASU. He campaigned in 2014 for Superintendent of Public Instruction but was defeated by Diane Douglas. Scroll back up. It’s that Diane Douglas - the Trump wannabe.

Garcia’s announcement sets up a primary contest with State Senator Steve Farley who has expressed his intention to run for Governor.

BTW - there were many more posts on Prop 123. As I said in one of them: Scriber’s tip for getting more out of this blog: Try using the search feature to find related previous posts. It is a widget in the right-hand column labeled “Search this blog”. If you want to research this topic, go to skyislandscriber.com and search for “123”.

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