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Sat, July 20

Ducey detractor: ‘Yes’ on Prop 123 for education

Fred DuVal
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services, file

Fred DuVal

PHOENIX - The man who tried to keep Doug Ducey from becoming governor is signing on to his signature education policy initiative: Proposition 123.

Democrat Fred DuVal acknowledged Wednesday he believes he was the better choice for governor in 2014. In fact, he during one of their 2014 debates he accused the Republican of class warfare, robbing from public schools to give tax breaks to the rich.

"Doug's priority is to lower taxes for the wealthiest among us,” DuVal said. "My priority is to assure that we adequately fund schools.”

And DuVal specifically promised to stop fighting a lawsuit brought by schools over the failure of lawmakers to obey a voter-approved measure requiring state aid be increased every year to match inflation.

But on Wednesday, DuVal said he supports the proposal crafted by Ducey - and agreed to by education groups - to settle that lawsuit for less than what they claimed. The deal is contingent on voters approving Proposition 123 at a special election on May 17.

"I have studied it closely and am comfortable that 'yes' is the better vote,” DuVal told Capitol Media Services.

"It moves dollars into our schools immediately,” he explained of the package to put an additional $3.5 billion into K-12 education over the next decade. "It creates predictability in order to keep teachers in the classroom.”

He acknowledged there is significant opposition from many quarters, including those who contend the deal leaves schools with less than what they should have gotten had lawmakers not violated the law in the first place.

There also have been concerns about provisions that allow the state to suspend inflation payments in years of soft economy.

But DuVal said it's probably the best deal to be had - especially with both the House and Senate in Republican hands.

"To my friends who are opposing it, I would say, 'Show me a different legislature',” he said. Anyway, DuVal said, it's the only plan that's on the table.

There are some who argue that the better option would be to reject the deal and instead pursue the court case.

A trial judge already has said the state right now owes public schools an extra $330 million a year. And that does not consider claims that schools are due another $1 billion or more for the years legislators ignored the inflation mandate.

DuVal said that's nice - in theory.

"You'll recall that this case took us five years,” he said, saying schools can't wait another five years until all the appeals are completed.

"Secondly, you never know the outcome of litigation,” DuVal said. And he said it's a compromise that acknowledges the legislature has a role to play in deciding how best to fund schools.

"So this is the right first step,” he said, echoing Ducey's promise that the $3.5 billion Proposition 123 would provide over the next decade is not the end of plans for more funds for K-12 education. "And I hope there will be more to come.”

DuVal brushed aside a question of whether supporting Ducey's proposal undermines any future runs for public office as a Democrat.

"It hasn't crossed my mind,” he said.

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