Friday, May 13, 2016

Something Pro-Education-Funding Folks Agree on, Whether They're For or Against Prop 123

Posted By on Fri, May 13, 2016 at 1:00 PM

The battle over Prop 123 rages on in the MSM, on Facebook . . . everywhere. No need to re-argue the issue here. It's been argued nearly to death by me and others, and by now most people have made up their minds. So far as I know, there's no polling available to predict the outcome. Anyone's guess is as good as mine. But a question as big as the May 17 outcome is, what happens May 18?

The May 17 vote must be seen as the beginning, not the end of the discussion about school funding. Whether the proposition goes up or down, whether some of the money voters demanded for schools in 2000 is restored immediately or in a few years or is tied up in endless lawsuits, at best it's a financial first step in what must be a concerted effort to give our schools the money they need to improve the quality of our children's educations. If passed, Prop 123 will put back about 70 percent of the funds taken illegally from schools. In other words, best case scenario, we'll still be 30 percent below the woefully low educational funding levels of 2009. This is nothing new. It began when the Republicans took over the state's government in 1966 and continued as they solidified their power. (At the end of the post is a graph of the decline in per student funding from an earlier post.)

I'm not sure what form the post-May 17 pressure will take, though there are some early signs of activism. I know right from the start, people have to stand in the way of Ducey's victory lap if Prop 123 passes, or refute his "It looks like voters don't want more money for education" lecture if it fails. Ducey wants to put the funding issue behind him as quickly as he can, and that can't be allowed to happen. 

Next, voters need to understand that the current Republican legislative majority will never vote for a substantial raise in school funding. Right now Republicans outnumber Democrats 36 to 24 in the House and 18 to 12 in the Senate. This session we saw how hard it was to pull together a coalition of Democrats and Republicans just to make sure education funding didn't decrease like Ducey wanted, or even to pass KidsCare which is paid for entirely by the federal government. In the House, it takes all the Democrats and seven Republicans to override the right wing agenda. In the Senate, four Republicans have to join together with Democrats. Every Republican replaced by a Democrat in November will make it one vote easier to restore funding for education, social services and infrastructure needs. The closer we come to an even split, the better chance we have to reverse the downward spiral of the budget and the upward trajectory of tax cuts for the rich.

Here's the graph created by the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University in 2009. It begins in 1964 when Arizona was above average in per student funding and continues to 2006 when we had fallen below 80 percent. A 10 year update would show the line descending even further.

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