Thursday, April 19, 2018

Ducey offers Arizonans a choice - teachers' raise vs. music and art. PTA resists.

The Arizona Parent Teacher Association has withdrawn its support for Gov. Doug Ducey’s Shameful Shell game that funds a promised 20% raise by robbing other programs.

My quotes below are via my subscription to the Arizona Capitol Times, PTA group withdraws support from Ducey’s teacher pay hike plan, but the same story ran this morning on the front page of the Daily Star.

Calling the governor’s plan not sustainable, the Arizona PTA has withdrawn its backing for Gov. Doug Ducey’s teacher pay hike plan.

Beth Simek, the organization’s president, told Capitol Media Services this afternoon that her own research shows there is no way Ducey can finance both the pay raise and restoration of capital funding without cutting the budget for other needed programs. And Simek said she believes some of what the governor plans to slice could end up hurting the very children her organization is working to protect.

The change of heart comes just two days after Simek stood with the Arizona School Boards Association and other school groups to give their blessing to Ducey’s proposal.

Simek said that she was not given all the relevant information about how Ducey plans to finance his plan when the governor first asked for support. So, what she did was strike out on her own and gather as much in specifics as she could from various other sources, including other state agencies.

Most crucial, she said, are the cuts being made elsewhere in the budget.

For example, Simek said, Ducey’s plan cuts $2.9 million that had been allocated for skilled nursing services in both the state Medicaid program and the Department of Economic Security. Also gone is $1.8 million aid for “critical access hospitals” and $4 million that the governor had proposed in additional dollars for the developmentally disabled.

“We can’t support that,” Simek said. “That hurts kids and it hurts families.”

The governor’s plan also cuts back $2 million in arts funding, which arts advocates say would decimate grants that fund programs that benefit pupils.

Gubernatorial press aide Daniel Scarpinato said nothing in the plan actually reduces existing funds. Instead, he said, this is simply Ducey deciding not to add money to these programs.

Simek, for her part, said she’s not convinced that deciding not to add those dollars – dollars that originally had been proposed as necessary – will not harm children.

More to the point, Simek said none of this was disclosed to her when she was asked to support Ducey’s plan.

One of the arts groups mentioned above is the Tucson Symphony Orchestra which said this in an email message yesterday.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s proposed plan to pay for raises for teachers statewide, includes sweeping $2 million in funding the Arizona Legislature sought for Arizona Commission on the Arts grants. Ironically, this will result in grants cut by up to 70 percent for arts organizations, and could lead to the elimination of arts programs for schools and communities statewide.

We do not believe the numerous organizations endorsing the Governor’s commitment to the cumulative 20% pay raise, nor the teachers, intended that the lion’s share of state funding for statewide arts organizations would be reduced or eliminated, when those arts organizations complement, support, and enhance arts education programs across Arizona communities.

Now is the time for arts advocates to speak up LOUDLY. The money intended for the Arts Commission budget, represents less than 1 percent of the teacher pay package, but it will devastate the commission and do great damage to the arts organizations that depend on its support and its programs.

However, we believe there is a solution. Absent any other source of funding, the $2 million for the Arts Commission should be restored and funded – as it has been for the last five years – from interest earned from the state Rainy Day Fund. This will NOT affect the teacher pay plan.

Please contact your legislators and the Governor today, and then share this message with your friends and colleagues via email and on social media.

This is another one of Ducey’s Choices. Arizona teachers can get a raise (albeit still an inadequate one) as long as the state agrees to under-fund other programs for children and to give up our music. And all this is in play because the legislature has consistently failed in its constitutional obligation to fund public education.

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