Friday, May 4, 2018

#RedforEd wins one by Takin' It To The Streets

538’s significant digits email this morning highlighted the results of the #RedforEd walkout:

20 percent
A teachers walkout in Arizona succeeded in increasing educational funding in the state. The walkout shut down schools in the state and tomorrow teachers and kids will be back. Teachers will get a 20 percent raise by 2020 and a further $138 million in funding is awarded to schools. [The Washington Post]

But what the teachers got is still far short of what is really needed. For example, half of the 20% is just a promise from the GOP-controlled legislature for future raises on top of the 10% to take effect this year. The state lege cobbled together a package that hurts taxpayers in local school districts and has no funding mechanism for the other 10%.

All this made the national news as in the Times and Post.

Arizona’s teacher walkout ends with raises, reports the NY Times: Arizona Teachers End Walkout as Governor CheapSkate Signs Bill Approving Raises.

Oops. Sorry. “CheapSkate” managed to creep in there somehow. All the rest of the words are from the Times’ report. Perhaps my slip was due to the fact that our good Guv, who wants to be known as the education governor, started with a budget containing a 1% raise. He was forced to go higher by the teachers’ activism. So why did he not start with 20% in the first place?

A week into a statewide teacher walkout in Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a budget bill on Thursday that he said would provide teachers with the 20 percent raises they had demanded, in addition to new funds for classrooms.

While the organizers of the walkout said the bill might not produce as much as the governor promised, they announced an end to their labor action, which had kept hundreds of thousands of children out of school.

In Arizona, as in Oklahoma, legislators refused requests to raise income taxes on the wealthy, and instead turned to a hodgepodge of revenue sources that are likely to hit a wide range of voters. The funding increase in Arizona will come in part from a new vehicle registration fee and a change in the way some school desegregation efforts are paid for.

I’ll get back to that deseg business shortly.

Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, said that despite Mr. Ducey’s claim of a 20 percent teacher raise, the union’s calculations showed the new budget guaranteed funding for less than a 10 percent raise. The bill restores only about a quarter of $1.1 billion in annual education cuts since the last recession, Mr. Thomas said, and does not guarantee raises for school support staff.

Like many of the other states rocked by teacher walkouts, Arizona has pursued decades of tax and spending cuts that educators say have devastated schools and made it difficult for teachers to achieve a middle-class lifestyle. In 2015, the last year for which census data was available, the state’s per-pupil funding was the third-lowest in the nation, behind only Utah and Idaho.

Mr. Ducey, a first-term Republican facing re-election, ran for governor promising never to raise taxes, and has said his budget keeps that commitment. In addition to an $18 car registration fee, a plan to shift the costs of several school desegregation plans to local property taxpayers from state government is expected to raise $18 million, in part by increasing property taxes in some low-income school districts.

This is worse than a regressive tax - increasing taxes in low-income districts? The Education Guv gives and taketh away. And in the process gives the middle finger to the teachers movement.

Leaders of the teachers’ walkout movement, which calls itself #RedforEd, said they would be shifting their focus to support a ballot initiative to raise income taxes on individuals with income over $250,000 and couples with income over $500,000.

The Arizona Center for Economic Progress is among the groups supporting the ballot referendum to raise income taxes to secure more schools funding. David Lujan, the group’s director and a former Democratic state legislator, said, “I’ve been around the State Capitol for a couple of decades now. I have never seen the level of grass-roots advocacy that we see this year.”

He added, “I think the education funding crisis will be the No. 1 story in Arizona elections in 2018.”

The Post’s reporting focused on what the AZ state government did not do: Arizona teachers end walkout despite falling short of aims.

Like other states that have seen teacher uprisings, Arizona’s schools have lost a significant amount of state funding since the recession, when states were forced to cut budgets across the board. The state did little to restore funding to schools after the economy recovered. Arizona enacted a corporate tax cut that continued to deplete revenue.

When adjusted for inflation, Arizona cut total state per-pupil funding by 37 percent between 2008 and 2015, more than any other state, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That has led to relatively low teacher salaries, crumbling school buildings and the elimination of free full-day kindergarten in some districts. In 2016, Arizona ranked 43rd in average teacher salaries, according to a study by the National Education Association, the largest teachers union. Teacher shortages have led the state to waive education requirements for teaching candidates. In some cases, even people without college degrees can serve as substitutes.

In a joint statement, Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas and National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García said the walkout was the beginning of a movement to press the state to restore budget cuts.

Right. #RedforEd, don’t you dare give up those red shirts. Arizona needs to do more but will only do more if forced to do it.

Telling me the things you’re gonna do for me
I ain’t blind and I don’t like what I think I see
Takin’ it to the streets.

– [Michael McDonald and the Doobie Brothers]

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