Friday, June 24, 2016

Ducey 'Next Step' Watch: Day 36. Revenue-Neutral Noodling

Posted By on Fri, Jun 24, 2016 at 12:59 PM

I listened to the 2 hour, 45 minute audio of Tuesday's Classrooms First Initiative Council meeting and can report that nothing happened.

OK, that's not entirely true. In the weeks following the May 17 vote on Prop 123 vote, a number of people and organizations submitted school funding proposals to the council—revenue-neutral proposals for moving around existing funds, not adding money to the education budget—and on Tuesday they got up one by one and explained their proposals to the council. In other words, very serious people presented very serious proposals, which very serious council members listened to very seriously. If I had been at the meeting, I'm sure I would have seen very serious nodding of heads by the council members as well. Everyone got their say, but that doesn't mean much. The only people who matter are the council members. It's up to them to make the final funding proposals. They can take what they want from the submitted ideas and leave the rest.

I may write about the proposals in a later post, but right now I want to look at the council members, since they're the ones who will decide which proposals to listen to and which to ignore. Five members represent charter schools, including Greg Miller, the President of the State Board of Education who founded Challenge Charter School, and Kathy Senseman, President of the State Board of Charter Schools. Four of them represent school districts—two superintendents, a chief financial officer and a teacher. That's a 5-4 split in favor of charter schools, in a state where students attending district schools outnumber charter school students 5-1.

Co-chairing the council are Doug Ducey and Jim Swanson, the only two council members with no direct connection to education. Ducey's anti-funding, pro-privatization stance on education is an open book, but we don't know much about Swanson. He's the President and CEO of Kitchell Corporation, a commercial contracting business whose market includes, according to its website, "K-12: Building and renovating facilities that make best use of public funds and stand the test of time." If more charter schools are built, Swanson stands to reap some of the benefits. His only other education connection, so far as I could find, is a December, 2014, guest opinion in the AZ Republic singing the praises of tax credits for private schools. He's definitely an education privatization kind of guy.

To sum up, the council has 7 votes for charter schools and privatization, 4 votes for district-based public school education. Also on the council are Ed Supe Diane Douglas and Dawn Wallace, an Education Policy Advisor at the Department of Ed. Even if the two of them side with the district people, it's still a 7-6 majority for funding proposals favoring charters.

Ducey hasn't spoken publicly about the Tuesday meeting yet, and no one in the media has asked him the "next step" question for awhile so far as I've seen. I don't know if Ducey is planning to proclaim the work of the Classrooms First Initiative Council part of his "next step." If so, it will be the first step in his expected post-Prop-123 dance away from the idea of increasing education funding. If not, well, here we are, Day 36 of the Ducey "Next Step" watch, and still, nothing.

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