Editorial: K-12 funding - will any of the plans work?
The Daily Courier
Originally Published: September 30, 2015 6:02 a.m.
Everyone has a plan, but will any of them work?It's a question that needs answering when it comes to K-12 education funding here in Arizona.First we have Republican Gov. Doug Ducey's plan to tap the state land trust, providing $2.2 billion in new funding for schools over the next 10 years. Treasurer Jeff DeWit weighed in criticizing that plan, saying it dips into the principal of the $5.1 billion land trust account intended to spin off cash for schools forever.GOP lawmakers want to use a combination of state trust land cash, tobacco tax money and cash on hand to boost funding by $5 billion over 10 years, but they would have to raid the state's First Things First early childhood education fund to pay for much of that increase, according to the Associated Press. Both the trust land proposal and the First Things First tobacco tax plan would require voter approval.Not to be late to the party, this week the state's Democrats announced their plan. It would provide enough cash to settle an ongoing lawsuit by schools, the AP reported, referring to a judge's order for the Legislature to pay $336 million this year with boosts every year to make up for inflation adjustments lawmakers didn't make during the Great Recession. (Republicans are appealing the ruling.) The Democrats' plan also puts $3.8 billion in new money into schools over 10 years without raising taxes. It relies on the $74 million in the current budget and $250 million in surplus cash that accumulated in the first half of this year and that Legislative analysts expect to be ongoing, Democratic Whip Sen. Martin Quezada told the AP.Schools would get about a $300 boost to the $3,400 per student they now get each year under the Ducey proposal, about $330 under the Democratic plan.Sound good? Hold the phone for a second, if you ask state Senate President Andy Biggs."The bulk of the money in (Democrats') concept is based on the hope that revenues will continue to grow at a level of $250 million or more for the next seven years. Nothing new or creative here; just project that we are going to grow at a brisk pace and, voila, there's money for K-12 funding. In this proposal, there is no mention of settling the Cave Creek lawsuit, and in fact the education funding inflator is not even discussed," Biggs stated Tuesday in a news release.Also, the Democrats are not providing any increased funding to other state needs; it all goes to K-12, Biggs added. "What about higher education, public safety and transportation? Do you agree with Legislative Democrats that those areas deserve no increase in funding?"He concluded by saying "in their zealous desire to oppose any Republican idea, Democrats have rolled out a simple plan that's not worth the napkin it was written on."I say more ideas the merrier. (Embattled Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas plans to issue her plan Thursday, Oct. 1.)Really, it all would go a long way toward finally solving the problem during a special session of the Legislature. Otherwise, it's just everyone stepping up to the line and seeing how much mud they sling sticks to the wall.- Tim Wiederaenders, city editorFollow Tim Wiederaenders on Twitter @TWieds_editor. Reach him at 928-445-3333 ext. 2032, firstname.lastname@example.org or 928-420-6472.