Monday, June 8, 2015

Ducey Says He Knows Education is Important. Funding? Not So Much.

Posted By on Mon, Jun 8, 2015 at 5:00 PM

Question: What do these two statements have in common?
"Research shows that a quality early childhood education experience can yield significant long-term benefits on overall development of a child."

“JTEDs and technical training is critical to the future of our state, and it will continue to be critical to the future of our state."
Answers: (1) Doug Ducey made both statements; (2) Doug Ducey doesn't want to fund preschools or JTED adequately, because: (3) Doug Ducey says we can't afford it.

The statement about preschools is from an article in April with the cutest picture of Ducey crouching down in a preschool you ever did see—teacher holding a baby care book and smiling at a child in the foreground, young, bearded guitar player looking like he's singing soothing children's songs in the background, Ducey, caring and fatherly, looking adoringly at one of the children. In the same article, we learn that Arizona has far fewer children in federally funded preschool programs than the national average and that only special education students get any state preschool funding. And we learn why Ducey is against funding early education, even though he admits its importance.
"We know that there's a good return on investment,'' he said. But Ducey said people need to recognize the state's financial condition.
The statement about JTED—Arizona's Joint Technological Education Districts—is from a Sunday article in the Star's business section. Business leaders all over the state praise the JTED programs for generating trained, motivated workers in a number of technical fields, saying they're essential to growing Arizona's economy. Yet we learn that the legislature's most recent education budgeting fiasco will have the effect of cutting JTED funding so drastically that the programs will be gutted, and many will simply die. And we learn why Ducey allowed the cuts to happen.
“We had to do what had to be done in this budget session." 
To recap. Our governor agrees that preschool and JTED are valuable programs for individual students and for the state. Yet he agreed not to fund them. And the reason he gave is that we can't afford the programs.

Saying we can't afford to fund preschool and JTED at the needed levels is pure, unadulterated bullshit, as is Ducey's position that we can't afford to fund public education at needed levels.

If the programs are as valuable as Ducey says they are, the state has to find ways to fund them. Legislators could, say, keep prison funding stable, or lower it, because we can't afford to raise prison funding right now. Legislators could, say, cut back on some of the tax breaks for corporations because we can't afford to give gifts to corporations right now. Legislators could, say, get rid of the new business tax cuts because we can't afford to cut taxes for businesses when we desperately need funding for our school children.

Legislators could even raise taxes so we could afford to support important government services. Yes, they could, even though it takes a two-thirds majority to raise taxes. All it would take would be a number of Republicans, not all of them, joining Democrats to pass a tax hike. It would be tough, but it's not an impossibility if there's the will. Or they could ask the voters to reverse Proposition 108, passed in 1992, that required the two-thirds vote to raise taxes. Then it would only take the Democratic legislators and a handful of Republicans to reach the simple majority needed to raise taxes.

That's why I can't get too excited about Ducey promising $300 million a year for education, starting two years from now and only if the voters agree to it, to bring funding up to the level where it's supposed to be right now according to a court order. That money won't cost him a penny of political capital because it doesn't raise taxes or take money from other programs. He deserves little praise for what he's proposed. It's a cowardly, too-little-too-late move that is, admittedly, better than nothing, but not nearly what's needed. Ducey either needs to show some guts and push for a significant raise in education funding or shut the hell up about how he thinks educational programs, programs that cost money, are good for children and for the state.

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