On schools, gov­er­nor’s bud­get falls short again

The Arizona Republic - - Valley & State - Laurie Roberts Columnist Ari­zona Repub­lic USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

Gov. Doug Ducey is propos­ing to put another $284 mil­lion into Ari­zona’s woe­fully un­der­funded pub­lic schools next year.

“Ed­u­ca­tion, ed­u­ca­tion, ed­u­ca­tion,” Gretchen Conger, Ducey’s deputy chief of staff for bud­get and pol­icy, told re­porters on Fri­day. “This is a good con­ser­va­tive bud­get that fo­cuses on the pri­or­i­ties of ed­u­ca­tion.”

Or, put another way, it’s still about a bil­lion dol­lars less than what the state in­vested in pub­lic schools a decade ago.

If you op­er­ate on the the­ory that some­thing is bet­ter than noth­ing, then happy days are here again.

If you op­er­ate on the­ory that Ari­zona’s stu­dents de­serve the same in­vest­ment in their school­ing as other kids across the coun­try, then you’re prob­a­bly not quite ready to break out your tam­bourine.

Count Ari­zona Schools Now, a coali­tion of 14 groups push­ing for bet­ter fund­ing of schools, among those who aren’t do­ing the happy dance.

“Un­der the gov­er­nor’s pro­posal, pub­lic school op­er­a­tional fund­ing would re­main $950 mil­lion be­low 2008 lev­els,” the group said in a state­ment. “By re­fus­ing to ad­dress the rev­enue im­bal­ances in our bud­get, we leave our schools and the stu­dents they serve without a se­ri­ous, longterm path to­ward meet­ing the shared goals of the Ed­u­ca­tion Progress Meter or ad­dress­ing our crit­i­cal teacher short­age.”

Ducey is propos­ing to boost soft cap­i­tal fund­ing by $100 mil­lion next year and al­low­ing schools to use it for op­er­a­tional ex­penses such as teacher pay. That should at least cover most of the $113 mil­lion in soft cap­i­tal fund­ing that he cut in 2016.

Much of that $100 mil­lion ap­pears to be money he’s mov­ing out of the bud­get for school con­struc­tion. In­stead, he pro­poses bor­row­ing $88 mil­lion over the next two years to build new schools.

Ducey is putting another $34 mil­lion into teacher salaries — as a pay raise this time, rather than a one-time bonus.

That’ll guar­an­tee another 1 per­cent in pay to some of the na­tion’s most poorly paid teach­ers.

“I’ve said we will never check the box on ed­u­ca­tion,” Ducey said this week. “This pro­posal con­tin­ues our com­mit­ment to fully restor­ing cuts made to schools dur­ing the re­ces­sion.” Well, then, he’s got a long way to go. Ducey is throw­ing a steplad­der into the hole in which our chil­dren’s schools re­side — a hole that re­quires a bil­lion rungs to es­cape.

He as­sures us he can grow the state out of that hole. But how long must our kids wait?

The state is now in­vest­ing $924 less per stu­dent, when ad­justed for in­fla-

tion, than we were a decade ago, ac­cord­ing to the Joint Leg­isla­tive Bud­get Com­mit­tee.

When, ex­actly, can we ex­pect our an­nual ex­er­cise in cut­ting taxes to pay off ?

Cor­po­rate tax col­lec­tions were $663 mil­lion in 2015. By 2020, when the 2011 tax cuts are fully phased in, they’re ex­pected to fall to $263 mil­lion.

Mean­while, cor­po­rate tax cred­its for pri­vate-school tu­ition, which drained away a mod­est $10 mil­lion in 2007, are now suck­ing $74.3 mil­lion from the state trea­sury, ac­cord­ing to the JLBC. By 2020, that’ll jump to $107 mil­lion.

Add in in­di­vid­ual tax cred­its for pri­vate and pub­lic schools, and the drain is $207 mil­lion this year.

Yet Ducey re­fuses to con­sider freez­ing the tax cuts or tax cred­its, or find­ing a new source of fund­ing to get our schools where they need to be.

To give our kids the ed­u­ca­tion they de­serve … or at least a teacher who is qual­i­fied to teach.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.