Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Education Funding Plans Galore

Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2015 at 5:03 PM

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Add one more to the current list of education funding plans.

There's a plan from Doug Ducey to take money from the state land trust funds—if he can get his plan through the legislature to put it on the ballot, then get the ballot measure passed by voters. Timeline: 2017. Then there's the non-plan plan from Senate President Andy Biggs and House Speaker David Gowan that wants to take less from the land trust funds than Ducey, but still take funds, and supplement that with money stolen from First Things First which is earmarked for early childhood education—that theft was blocked by the courts when it was tried before—and add a bit from the budget. Timeline: Somewhere between 2017 and never. Ed Supe Diane Douglas has a plan as well, to come up with $400 million more this year and every year from now until forever, though she's not specific about where the funds will come from. Timeline: Now, since she's calling for a special session, but she won't get very far shouting from her bully pulpit at the Dept. of Ed without a whole lot of support from elsewhere.

And now comes a Democratic plan. It's for $400 million a year, the same as Douglas' number. But the Democrats only have a ten year target and are more specific about where the money comes from. Timeline: Now, during a special session, though Democrats need some Republicans to work with them if they hope to pass anything.

Here's the Democratic education funding plan. It includes $74 million from state land trust money (I'm not sure how much of that is the standard yearly amount and how much is added), between $250 million and $278 million from the state's budget surplus, and money that will be generated by a freeze on the ceiling of the corporate private school tuition tax credit, which is scheduled to rise from a maximum of $51.6 million in 2016 to—hang onto your hats—$662.5 million in 2030. Thanks to the miracle of compound interest, the law allowing a 20% yearly hike in the ceiling for total tuition tax credit contributions from corporations results in a twelve-fold increase over 15 years.

None of the plans call for a tax increase.

The best plan by far is the Democratic one, which is only better than Douglas' plan because it explains how to reach the $400 million figure. The fact that there's something close to agreement between progressive legislators and our far right Ed Supe brings a glimmer of hope. Democrats, I'm reasonably sure, can present a united front for their plan. If Douglas' support brings along a few Republicans on the right, and maybe some of the very few moderate Republicans join in . . . Well, I can live in hope, can't I?

Interesting factoid. Douglas won the general election even though she lost both Maricopa and Pima counties. That's virtually unheard of. It may be historically unique in a statewide race. She won by pulling big numbers from the heavily Republican, very conservative counties.Those areas are represented by similarly right wing legislators who, if they're anything like their counterparts in Congress, aren't entirely happy with their leadership and want to assure their reelections by being faithful to their base. Which might mean . . . Well, I can live in hope, can't I?

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