Loved the education part of Gov. Ducey's State of the State address—with a few exceptions, of course. Great stuff, mostly. Unfortunately, it'll take lots of money to accomplish even half of what Ducey proposed. Lots and lots of money. And he didn't commit dollar one.
My understanding is, the state is expecting to see about $24 million in revenue that's not already accounted for. Even if all that went to education, it only comes to about 7 percent of the $350 million a year voted in when Prop 123 passed, so it's not a hell of a lot of money. I've read that it'll cost the state about $20 million just to cover the extra costs from the minimum wage hike. And of course, education isn't the only area in dire need of additional funding, or the only sector Ducey made financial promises to. So that puny little $24 million, a tiny fraction of the state's nearly $10 billion yearly budget, will have to be stretched way beyond the breaking point for it to make any kind of a difference anywhere.
Here are some of the education proposals in Ducey's speech. As you read them, count the potential costs on your fingers and toes, with each digit worth $10 million. Warning: pretty soon, you'll need to start in on your neighbor's fingers and toes as well. It's gonna take a lot of "This little piggies" to get us all the way to market.
• Increase investment in public schools above and beyond inflation.
• Raise teacher pay.
• Pay down teachers' student debt.
• Create "Teacher Academies" at our universities and community colleges where prospective teachers' educations are paid for and teaching jobs will be waiting upon completion, debt free.
• Give a $1,000 signing bonus to teachers who commit to work in low-income schools.
• Expand full day kindergarten.
• Connect schools in rural areas and on tribal lands to high speed internet and create a statewide coding and technology initiative.
• Increase per pupil funding at excelling schools, with even more going to excelling schools with low income students.
For the first two proposals to mean anything at all will take $100 million and counting. For them to really make a difference will cost more like $400-800 million. And that's just the first two proposals. Remember, the legislature has something like $24 million in walk-around money total.
OK, I admit, I'm being unfair. Ducey promised he'll unveil his proposed budget Friday, and it may be that he has a rabbit or two hidden in his hat. I'll try hard to suspend my disbelief, and my cynicism, until Ducey has a chance to pull out his wallet and show us the money, though with 235 days gone by since the passage of Prop 123 and his promise back then that it was only a first step, my patience is wearing thin. If he puts some serious money where his mouth was during his State of the State speech, I'll give him credit where credit is due. If not . . . well, there'll be time enough for "If not's" once Ducey presents his budget.