Thursday, January 18, 2018

Where I Went Wrong in My Earlier Budget Post

Posted By on Thu, Jan 18, 2018 at 1:30 PM

Monday I wrote a post about Ducey's proposed 2018-19 budget. I got some of the facts wrong. I thought Ducey had proposed $214 million in new education spending, including $88 million to build or expand schools in Chander, Queen Creek and Tolleson. My numbers were wrong on both counts. I'm going to try and get closer to right in this post. No guarantees I'll be exactly on the money.

I tried my damndest to pull together the details of Ducey's budget proposal by reading a bunch of accounts in the media, but my damndest wasn't good enough. Better would have been to go directly to the source, the official State of Arizona Executive Budget Summary, Fiscal Year 2019. Near as I can tell, Ducey's proposal contains $190.4 million in new money for K-12 education beyond adjustments for inflation and student growth. Here's the part of the proposal listing the education numbers.

Add together the two "Initiative" lists, and you get $190.4 million.

See the item near the bottom, "$5.1 million, New School Construction"? That's the first of 25 yearly payments to cover the $88.1 million needed to build or expand three schools in Chandler, one in Queen Creek and one in Tolleson Union High district. That means every year for the next 25 years, $5.5 million for those schools will be part of the education budget.

My first mistake in fact gathering was to pay any attention to the op ed written by Ducey (or whoever writes those things for him) explaining his education budget: My education plan restores $371 million to K-12 schools. I knew he wasn't "restoring" $371 million for education, that he stuffed every available dollar into his total whether or not it was part of a "restoration." But for some reason I believed him when he put this item in the list of "additional funding for K-12 education": "$88.1 million for the construction of new schools." That is a lie. The budget includes $5.1 million for new school construction, not $88.1 million. He knows that, of course. He purposely, blatantly misled the public in the op ed to make him look more like the generous "education governor" he pretends to be. And, fool that I am, I bit.

Some articles in the media correctly wrote that Ducey proposed borrowing, not spending, $88.1 million. I should have been paying better attention. But others stated that he requested the entire amount in his proposal just like I did.

The other thing which added to my confusion is that the current 2017-18 budget includes $64 million to build or expand schools in Vail, Queen Creek and Chandler. So far as I can tell, that's a one-time payment, not borrowed money to be paid back over a number of years. I made the incorrect assumption that this budget would also cover the new construction expenses rather than paying them off over 25 years.

All that being said, my basic point in the last post remains. Over the past two years, a big chunk of money has been allocated to build schools in four districts, three of which are in high income areas, at a time when there's not nearly enough money to go around. If our schools were adequately funded, those expenses would be part of a larger funding package for building construction and maintenance, and it wouldn't deserve much attention. But when funding is ridiculously low and our governor is making his love of and generosity toward our schools a major part of his reelection campaign, it's important to distinguish between money dedicated to improving the education of students across the state and money going to a few, mostly affluent districts. We deserve an accurate picture of just how much how little he's planning to spend.

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