AZ voters part with Koch brothers’ governor, would pay more taxes for public schools

by Félix Pérez

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and the Koch Bros. have a longstanding mutual admiration club. Ducey owes his political career to the billionaire industrialists, and David and Charles Koch take great pride in the zeal with which their favorite son has doled out corporate tax cuts, cut funding to schools and colleges and universities, and enacted a corporate tuition tax credit program for private school vouchers.

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But the state’s voters are signaling Ducey’s corporate-tax-cuts-above-all-else policies are exacting too high a price on public schools, which rank 49th in the nation in per-pupil funding.  A recent poll found that almost 66 percent of voters said they would pay higher state taxes to improve public schools. The poll, conducted by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, also found that 77 percent of voters agree full-day kindergarten should be fully funded by the state.

Andrew Morrill, a high school English teacher, said lawmakers should heed the poll’s findings. “Arizona’s lawmakers have stacked the deck against ordinary Arizonans in favor of the wealthy. Hard-working Arizonans haven’t seen any benefit from the state’s tax-cuts over policy for the past two decades. While teachers haven’t had raises in years, CEO pay in Arizona has reached record highs. A school teacher earning $42,000 pays double the tax rate as the richest 1 percent in our state. Arizona voters want to see their tax dollars go into the classroom, not the pockets of wealthy special interests.”

In March, Ducey signed a $9.1 billion budget that slashed $113.4 million from classroom materials, technology, building repairs, and more, representing an overall loss of $352.4 million to school districts when combined with the prior year’s cuts. The loss amounts to approximately $135 per student. The budget also eliminated all state funding for Pima and Maricopa college districts and Central Arizona College and cut 14 percent of support for state universities, or 14 percent of their state support. Prior to the Ducey budget, Arizona legislators had cut education funding by $1 billion over the last five years.

Ducey and lawmakers said the cuts were necessary in light of the state’s finances, even though the budget included $267 million in corporate tax giveaways, $500,000 to Teach for America, and more than $100 million for a corporate tuition tax credit program for private school vouchers.

That poll results “shouldn’t be too surprising,” said David Daugherty, associate director at Morrison Institute and director of the poll. “Voters seem to understand how the state’s changing demographics are intrinsically linked to the state’s ability to succeed economically through a skilled and educated workforce.”

Morrill, president of the Arizona Education Association, said the poll sends a clear message to Ducey and state lawmakers:

Arizona should invest in public education, technology, and create jobs, instead of creating tax breaks for billionaires and loopholes for big corporations. We need to make sure children receive a quality public education and that college and job training are affordable. The promise of America is for everyone, not just the wealthy few.

Ducey, in response to a judge ordering the legislature in July 2014 to pay $330 million to schools, has proposed a plan to increase school funding by tapping the state’s land trust. The judge’s order is the result of a lawsuit filed by the Arizona Education Association and others who argued that lawmakers had failed to provide annual inflation adjustments for schools as required by a voter-approved law. AEA and the other plaintiffs agreed to settle the inflation lawsuit and support a special ballot election next May to vote on Ducey’s proposal.

3 responses to “AZ voters part with Koch brothers’ governor, would pay more taxes for public schools

  1. I am working with the American Welding Society and various districts to put in articulation between dual credits from high schools, community colleges and universities. It is very slow going. At a welding contest where there were also schools from California, I found by talking to the teachers/instructors that articulation is not a problem there. Students routinely save hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars with articulated credits. There is no unified legislative effort to do this here. Every single credit is a turf war between educational institutions. This does nothing for the better good of all students in Arizona.

  2. The GOP has gotten a lot of mileage out of the rhetorical narrative, “You can’t tax the “job creators,” to justify the favor they’ve heaped upon corporations (which just happens to have create record gains for Wall Street) over the past 35 years of “trickle down.” All the while, middle America has been forced to abandon those offshored family and community sustaining manufacturing jobs and pick up the pieces with lower paying and part-time jobs to make up the difference. This recent phenomenon of wealth consolidation to the top was witnessed after the Industrial Revolution where all the gains gleefully went to the top without a thought to the consequences of the lack of consumer dynamism. We all know what happened when that bubble burst!

    Hopefully, now, after watching 35 years of the USA’s unfathomable wealth being consolidated to the top as a result of putting all of our economic eggs in the Wall Street basket to please the investment industry, the people of the USA will begin to appreciate the sting operation that has seen the rug pulled out from beneath them in favor of moneyed, special interest.

    The GOP’s rhetoric about their heart-felt pain for the “hard-earned tax-payer’s money” is a shrewd strategy of mixing truth with lies; our middle class is working harder for longer hours and less money, while the lie is contained in the GOP’s heartfelt anything other than corporate profit margins that fund their elections and getting elected.

    All of this dovetails nicely into their schemes to privatize schools (think of the money!!!) by cutting school funding to create an increased burden on a declining middle class, public school’s expense becomes a budget breaker for most homeowners, whose pain the GOP is finely attuned to. And by emphasizing testing created by test-writing industry’s BIG FOUR (Harcourt Educational Measurement, CTB McGraw-Hill, Riverside Publishing (a Houghton Mifflin company), and NCS Pearson). It has been stated that the value of the testing market is anywhere from $400 million to $700 million.
    Any time you hear a politician, especially from those in the GOP, talk about their heart-felt pain for the hard-working tax payer, hold on to your wallet!

  3. I know someone who used to teach in Arizona and that state’s school system is a disaster.

    Not only is the pay among the lowest in the nation, the micromanaging is unreal. Turnover is very high. I heard of one Arizona school that had 50% of its teachers leave at the end of one school year. How can you build a functioning team under those circumstances?

    Academic achievement is low as is morale. Because Arizona is a right to work state, the teachers’ voice is limited.

    Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is trying to Arizonaize schools in his state. Wisconsin has had both a strong union and a strong tradition of academic achievement. Walker and other governors who are trying to apply models similar to those in Arizona should look to Arizona to see what kind of results they can expect.

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