Ducey’s Public Education Metamorphosis

Doug DuceyAs Arizona’s newly-elected governor, Doug Ducey shot himself in both feet right out-of-the gate with his fence-straddling “stance” on K-12 public education funding, and funding cuts to state-funded higher education.

Now he’s in the process of trying to reinvent himself as a champion of public education, starting with a proposal announced with great fanfare to dip into the principle of the state’s land trust fund for public education.

I voiced my concerns this morning in reply to a comment on a friend’s Facebook post regarding Ducey’s new-found public education conscience. And it was very telling who replied and what was said.

The original comment:

Does anyone in an elected position ever step back and look at the interconnections between systems? There is a portion of state land sold for future residential development and commercial development. That development increases the burden on infrastructure, including public schools. We are already having a problem funding repairs and upkeep on infrastructure, including schools. We cannot build our way out of budget deficits.

And I wonder how many people caught the absolute irony in Ducey announcing his plan at Central High School, an easy walk south from Brophy Prep where his son attends school. Setting academics aside, the gap between the array and depth of future opportunities for students graduating from the two schools is huge. Our community and state is stronger when we work to close that gap. Education helps to close that gap. If we want to start closing gaps and change Arizona’s rankings on a number of issues, we need to change the way we think. Not in little bits and pieces spread out over years but big audacious system change.

My reply:

Very astute. I believe a lot of Ducey’s new-found religion for public education is driven by pandering to developer-contributors. And other campaign contributors…as quoted in the Republic:

Tim Hogan“Tim Hogan of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest cautioned that the proposal could pick up unneeded baggage, such as attempts to reform land-trust procedures or to change the planning process, once it starts moving through the Legislature. Ducey did not signal whether he intends to call a special legislative session or wait until next year’s regular session to address the referendum.”

“The cattle growers have been interested in changing the grazing-ease provisions,” said Hogan, who has opposed previous land-trust measures. “Anytime you introduce additional items, you start to lose support.”

Jake HoffmanMy concerns were met with the following from Jake Hoffman, communications director for the Republican Party of Maricopa County [underlines are added for emphasis]:

The proposal as outlined is not dependent upon selling additional land, but rather on increasing the annual percentage draw from the land trust fund. Our current yield on that fund is approximately 6.5% annually. Our current draw is 2.5% annually with 93% going to K-12 education. The proposal is to increase the draw to 10% for five years and then reduce back to 5% for another five years. This is a 10 year plan with billions of new K-12 funding. Obviously, the proposal will endure significant vetting over the next 6-15 months and components could change; however, above is what the Governor has proposed. It is a solid proposal worth further due diligence.

My response:

1. “6-15 months” sounds a lot like “no special session.” So public education funding will continue to languish for the foreseeable future.

2. I’m less interested in hearing about “new K-12 funding” and a lot more interested to hear about the overall funding formula. I suspect some of the “old” funding will go away, so the net will be no more (or even less) than current.

3. I’m also skeptical that any of this “new” funding will really make a difference in “public education” classrooms, as opposed to being diverted to Ducey’s contractor-contributors for building new facilities…which may be leased out for $1/year to charter schools and/or “non-profit” entities, as is happening now in SUSD [Scottsdale Unified School District] because [SUSD board members] Bonnie Sneed, George Jackson, Kim Hartmann, and [SUSD superintendent] David Peterson can’t fill current classrooms.

4. And while the “current proposal” may not include increased sales of state lands, I have zero doubt that such sales are being seriously considered, if not already under discussion. I welcome the Guv to refute that.

Jake responds again:

All proposals must be vetted thoroughly before implementation; however, aloofness & outright negativity toward the plan by the Ed community will only hurt the Ed community’s own interests in the long run. Get involved. Show your support for good ideas and innovative policy proposals. Champion the attitude that it’s not about right vs. left but rather right vs. wrong. Otherwise your stuck with status quo, which does not help Arizona children.

Also worth noting that the Ed lobby (AEA, ASBA, ASBO, etc) was standing behind the Gov with me, Pam and legislative leaders yesterday in support of the concept. The Ed lobby doesn’t exactly chum up with the GOP, so it is a strong message of positive interest.

My second response:

I never said anything remotely related to “right vs. left,” and lack of critical assessment of our educational system is exactly why it’s in such trouble today.

Folks like you who label critics as “negative” are a big part of that problem.

And it’s a common tactic of disingenuous politicians to recruit allies by blighting our community so they can “rebuild it.”

So, why not address my concerns directly instead of attacking me? Maybe because I’m right?

Jake’s third response:

John, reread my comments. No one attacked you or anyone else. What I did say is be a part of the solution.

Hmmm. My third response:

You said I was aloof, negative, uninvolved, unsupportive, and unduly partisan. I read pretty well, and I read between the lines pretty well, too.

You aren’t helping your case with passive-aggressive ad hominem attacks. You are only showing your own ignorance.

And yet again, you didn’t address ANY of my concerns directly.

Jake’s close:

Didn’t say any of those things. Thanks for the dialogue.

Clearly Jake isn’t nearly as good at “communications” as his title might indicate, and/or he doesn’t have nearly the knowledge of this issue that he portrays.

See also Robert Robb’s commentary.

See also news of the lawsuit by the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest.

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  1. The Ducey plan is a problem. This is from the act:

    All of which ordinance described in this section shall, by proper reference, be made a part of any constitution that shall be formed hereunder, in such terms as shall positively preclude the making of any future constitutional amendment of any change or abrogation of the said ordinance in whole or in part without the consent of Congress.

    The whole text is here: http://www.azleg.state.az.us/const/enabling.pdf

    So our Governor is trying to violate what the act says? Oh we as citizens can vote to change our State Constitution till we are blue in the face, but our votes don’t impact the Congress of the United States of America. They make the changes necessary. That is the problem for this plan. The part he wants to change is under the control of the Congress of the United States.

    Let me put it this way – Congress needs to change the formula for us END OF STORY. Now if you ignore Congress, which it seems some people in Arizona want and like to do, you will get the following. It is put on the ballot in 2016. It has to be approved and then, well about $300 per student in 2017 -IF- you believe we can change the ratio without getting Congress involved (the state of AZ lost the last lawsuit it tried to do the same thing)

    So for a possible $300 up-tick per student everyone is happy? Why? It is at best two years away and it has further implications. Look I have read more than one post where people now say – Well that means no more overrides and bonds – What?

    Hey welcome to the confusing world of educational finances! That $300 will NOT get you new buildings, or new books, computers, or anything else you think overrides and bonds do. But hey as long as people DON’T vote and stay confused by the jumbled system of educational finance, a $300 payday in two years sounds grand. Right?

  2. Thank you John for the enlightening dialogue….errrrr…..discussion……appreciate your attempt to open up conversation. I do hope that person isn’t a grad of the Cronkite School at ASU. Walter Cronkite should be spinning in his grave.

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