Friday, March 3, 2017

Paying for Arizona K-12 with brownbacks

Just a little over a week ago, with tongue in cheek, I reported that our AZ Gov faced with shortage of greenbacks plans to balance budget with brownbacks. The underlying theme of this satire was that AZ should not look to Kansas as a model for how to fund K–12 - or anything else. If our Guv keeps his promise to keep cutting taxes, he will be soon in the position of KS Guv Sam Brownback.

… Kansas is fiscally crippled by Brownback’s tax cuts. They have a $320 million shortfall this year and an additional $750 million deficit over the coming two years. Their legislature passed a $1 billion tax increase package but the question is what will Brownback do: sign it, let it become law without a signature, or veto it. If the latter, Scriber opines, Brownback will be printing brownbacks.

Placing ideology over public welfare, Brownback vetoed it. Brownback’s veto was overridden by the KS House, Kansas House overrides Brownback veto of tax bill, but the KS Senate sustained it, Kansas Senate falls short of votes needed to override Gov. Brownback’s tax hike veto.

Just last month, the Republican-dominated Legislature approved a tax increase that would have raised more than $1 billion to help narrow the budget gap — a bold rejection of Mr. Brownback’s vision. In the end, the governor vetoed the measure, and he barely survived an override attempt. The school funding ruling now adds yet another layer of fiscal trouble for Kansas and political tumult for Mr. Brownback.

And the next shoe dropped when the Kansas Supreme Court Says State Education Spending Is Too Low as reported by the NY Times.

“Either the governor will have to bend, or we have to get enough votes in the House and Senate to override him,” Dinah Sykes, a Republican state senator, said, noting that lawmakers will have to get to work immediately to find money in the budget to satisfy the court’s requirements. “I thought that the tax plan that we put on his desk that was vetoed, I thought that was a compromise,” Ms. Sykes said.

Funny lady. There is no compromise with TeaPublicans. Brownback’s experiment has failed miserably. He won’t admit it so the next question is whether (when?) the Republicans in the KS lege will get the spine and do what is right and what is mandated by the court’s ruling.

The question after that is whether Il Duce will continue AZ on the same path. Hint: printing brownbacks is not as good as raising greenbacks.

In the apparent absence of gubernatorial and legislative will to properly fund K–12 in Arizona, who will step up? The writer of a letter to the editor in this morning’s Daily Star has a suggestion.

I want to welcome the thousands of employees who will be moving to Arizona with Intel, Caterpillar and other corporations expanding to Arizona. Your employees will find warm winters with lots of sunshine.

Unfortunately, your employees will find Arizona’s education poorly funded with high turnover of teachers. Our K–12 system funding is the lowest level nationally… below Mississippi (the historic hallmark of poorly funded schools). According to the Chronicle of Higher Education funding for post-secondary education in Arizona is, you guessed it, dead last again.

Scriber checked. The most recent National Education Association report Ranking of the States 2015 and Estimates of School Statistics 2016, Table H11, Current Expenditures for Public K–12 Schools per Student in Fall Enrollment, 2014–15 ($), has Kansas as 33rd and Arizona as dead last, 51st.

A few years ago, the Legislature slashed all state funding for our two largest community college districts, Pima and Maricopa.

Recently, Gov. Doug Ducey announced a major plan to improve K–12 funding. The result: teachers will receive $2 more per day. Will that stop the hemorrhaging of teachers leaving K–12 to find other careers?

My only hope is that corporations will use their political clout and demand that the Legislature adequately fund education so all Arizonans have a sunny future.

Blaine Nisson
Green Valley

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