There are two things I pretty much know for sure. First, there’s this fact: the K-12 Inflation Lawsuit Settlement between the plaintiffs and the legislature on inflation funding was resolved and is significantly attributable to Governor Doug Ducey. The hitch: it will require voter approval to amend the inflation payout scenarios in a fashion that even the “educated” voter may find challenging to understand.
Secondly, there would not likely be any possibility of additional State Land Trust Fund money absent Governor Ducey’s proposal, as well. The hitch: State Treasurer Jeff DeWit and every former State Treasurer alive today, except former Treasurer Doug Ducey, oppose the deal.
State Land Trust campaigns are always a tough sell in Arizona, with multiple failures compared to one significant victory. But that victory is significant indeed. It was then State Treasurer Doug Ducey who broke through public concerns on changing the constitution in 2012 in Proposition 118, affecting the pay out of State Land Trust revenue to the school districts. Here is the final vote:
In other words, the only State Land Trust proposal to pass muster with Arizona voters squeaked by with the narrowest of margins. But it did pass.
Today we anticipate a well-funded campaign for Proposition 123, marked by Governor Ducey’s strong support and name, and we are already seeing headlines like “Patching Up The Schools: Arizona school districts are already creating plans to spend their windfall…”
It's fair to ask “How can there still be a funding issue if Proposition 123 passes?" In fact, the greatest concern of many K-12 education advocates is that the “air is coming out of the balloon” when it comes to the pressure needed to really cause action on increasing Arizona classroom funding resources.
That pressure was recently palpable. The last legislative regular session was marked by parent, teacher and student rallies at the Arizona State Capitol on behalf of classroom spending needs. In spite of the comments of some Legislative Members that they didn’t care, well, it is apparent now that they DID care. They all cared. Nobody in elected office can relish thousands of citizens parading through the capitol grounds protesting the lack of funding for their children’s education. It’s not exactly a post card that the business community appreciates, either.
The hitch? Neither the ten-year increase in State Land Trust distributions nor the Inflation Lawsuit Settlement recovers the cuts in classroom spending already extant since the Great Recession. Arizona remains one of the states spending less in classrooms today than it did in 2008, even with voter approval of Proposition 123. In other words, we have yet to address classroom funding sufficiency and we haven’t even restored the cuts!
Our challenge? First, voters must pass Proposition 123. The Fact? If this passes, modest new funds will indeed flow into Arizona Classrooms. The hitch? Nothing good happens if we fail. We go back to the courts and/or negotiations. We have uncertainty on inflation funding. We get no new monies from the State Land Trust. Nobody knows what happens next except this: Arizona classrooms get nothing!
Sufficiency? That’s not a word we can use yet.
Necessity? That’s a word we can use.
So, do we have a plan for the permanent, long-term, sustainable needs for Arizona classroom funding? Perhaps not yet. But we do have a path to that discussion and that is incredibly important. That path is getting the inflation lawsuit settled and the State Land Trust reform proposal dealt with. Even assuming the successful passage of Proposition 123, will this lead to the promised next steps in addressing classroom funding needs of not just restoration but greater sufficiency for our children, teachers, parents and communities? We sincerely hope Governor Ducey will lead this future discussion as well.
But the success of that discussion also belongs to all of us. The ABEC board clearly understands this. And that’s why ABEC recommends that we get this journey started by voting for Proposition 123 and keeping our sleeves rolled up for the even greater work yet to come to support our long term needs for Arizona’s schools and classrooms.