Doug Ducey loves to say Prop 123 is a "first step." That phrase has become a mantra for Ducey and others supporting Prop 123. The question Ducey won't answer is, if Prop 123 is the first step, what's the next step?
"First step" is one of those vague, Rorschach-test statements politicians love which allow voters to deduce the meaning based on their own desires. If you're a pro-education-funding voter, you're supposed to imagine it means the next step is to put more money in public education. If you think our "government schools" are wasting money on administration and we're "throwing money" at "failing schools," then you can imagine the next step has nothing to do with increasing funding. It's about firing administrators, defunding "government schools," especially those with lots of poor and minority kids, and increasing funds for "school choice" — meaning plenty of money for charter and private schools.
Ducey agrees with the second group. Prop 123 is a way of getting the public off his back without putting any new money for education in the state budget. He and his surrogates have made it clear, they want to keep education funding low while shifting money toward high rent school districts, charters and private schools. But he can't say that out loud right now. Prop 123 needs the votes of people who know our schools are desperately in need of more funding and want the state to increase what it spends on education. His oft-used "first step" statement is designed to leave the impression he's on their side without making a commitment he might be expected to live up to later.
Ducey can show he agrees our schools need more funding by adding education spending to the budget he and Republican legislative leadership are hammering out. Instead, it looks like they're going to push for a net loss of $21 million in state education money. That means if Prop 123 passes, the first $21 million dollars will go toward bringing state funding up to this year's abysmally low level, not to adding money for schools. If it fails, our schools will be $21 million poorer.
And yet, I'm voting for Prop 123. It's getting harder by the day, but my vote stands, as do my reasons, which I've explained in earlier posts so I won't go into them again.
But does a Yes vote mean I trust Ducey? Hell No! Let me qualify that Hell No! The only thing I trust about Ducey is that he will continue to be a lying weasel who will do whatever it takes to push through his anti-people, pro-tax-cuts-for-the-rich agenda. My Yes vote is a statement that Prop 123 is a weak first step toward raising Arizona's lowest-in-the-nation per-student funding (or second or third lowest, depending on who's counting) to a higher level, but it's not nearly enough. We need to insist the legislature does more. Much more. Hundreds of millions of dollars more. And we need to do everything we can to throw out the bastards who get in the way of doing what's best for our children by working to defund and dismantle our public education system.
BONUS "First-Step"-In-The-Voter-Guide FEATURE:
In an article about Prop 123 in the Republic, Democratic House Minority Leader Eric Meyer calls Ducey on his "first step" phrase. According to Meyer, Ducey can show his support for education by completing his statement about Prop 123 by saying, "Yes, this is a first step, and the second step is investing $100 million in the budget we’re going to pass."
In the Arguments "For" Proposition 123 in the Voter Guide, the phrase "first step" is used 13 times, but no one comes near saying, as Meyer did, that Prop 123 should be part of a larger financial investment in education. And, to the Arizona Education Association's great shame, that reluctance to demand more funding is echoed in its wishy-washy statements.
Here are all 13 "first step" quotes.
• Lisa Graham Keegan and Jaime A. Molera: "an excellent first step towards rebuilding the base funding of Arizona's K-12 system" (Keegan and Molera are ex-Ed Supes who are working to funnel funds to high rent districts, charters and private schools.)
• Vic Linoff and Mary Ann Miller: "a first step in funding classrooms to help Arizona’s teachers and students succeed in the classroom and in the future" (Sponsored by the East Valley Chambers of Commerce Alliance)
• John-David Bowman, Beth Maloney, Nancie Lindblom, and Kristie Martorell: "an important first step on the way to improving education funding in Arizona" (Sponsored by the Arizona Education Association)
• Paul Lowes and Tom Oviatt: "a first step in a larger education funding conversation at the state level" (Sponsored by the Arizona Education Association)
• Andrew F. Morrill and Joe Thomas: "the first step to provide stability to our public schools"; "the first step towards honoring our extraordinary teachers, nurses, bus drivers, and so many others working every day so our children’s future is brighter that their commitment is appreciated"; and "the first step toward a brighter future for all of Arizona" (Sponsored by the Arizona Education Association)
• Jeff Dial: "the first step toward reforming education in Arizona" (A Republican state senator, Dial also uses the "education reform" phrase associated with the privatization movement)
• Robert Calbert: "the first step toward the education improvements we need for Arizona" (Sponsored by Greater Phoenix Leadership)
• Mark R. Young: "hugely important and courageous first step toward restoring the commitment we voters approved in the past" (Sponsored by Greater Phoenix Leadership)
• Larry S. Lazarus: "a critical first step toward resolving our education system’s funding problems" (Sponsored by Greater Phoenix Leadership)
• Jill Humpherys: "a good first step toward solving issues of funding, performance, and accountability" (Humpherys is on the Gilbert School Board)
• Farrell Quinlan and Mark Giebelhaus: "a good first step toward solving issues of funding, performance, and accountability" (Sponsored by National Federation of Independent Business/Arizona and advocating for Stand for Children Arizona)