Arizona Governor’s End Run Around Education Unions

 

1409113012000-Doug-DuceyArizona Governor Doug Ducey is not your typical politician. He rose to prominence as the CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, turning a sleepy local chain with a handful of stores into an international brand with nearly 1,500 locations in 31 countries. Having mastered business, he entered state politics, spending four years as Arizona’s treasurer until his landslide election as governor one year ago.

Since his inauguration, Ducey has already fulfilled several of his campaign promises, but his trickiest pledge remained: How could he give more money to classrooms without raising taxes? For decades Arizona has led the nation in school-choice initiatives, but a years-long court case mandated more money for the K-12 education. This summer, a judge ordered that an additional $336 million be spent at once and perhaps as much as $1.3 billion in back payments in the near future. As I note in my article for The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), Gov. Ducey knows how to wheel and deal while keeping his promises to the taxpayers:

Reviewing several poor options, the governor’s office noticed something curious about the results of the 2000 [schools] tax increase. Education spending had gone up 41%, but the share of funds eaten by non-classroom expenses, such as plant operations and student support services, had grown every year for the past nine. The state auditor’s office calculated that in 2013 Arizona spent only 54% of school funds in the classroom, compared with 61% nationwide. Several academic studies have shown a direct correlation between that figure and student achievement, so it’s no surprise that Arizona ranks near the bottom in educational success, too.

Providing more resources to teachers and students is popular with many voters; paying higher taxes to hire district paper-shufflers is not. So Gov. Ducey came up with a clever plan to draw $2 billion over a decade from the state trust lands—a constitutional set-aside, established at statehood to promote public education, that currently holds about 9 million acres and more than $5 billion. The governor wanted to put that additional money directly into the classroom, rather than funnel it through layers of bureaucrats. Even with this outflow, the governor’s estimates showed, the trust would continue to grow in the long term, and its value would be higher in five years than today.

More money for schools with no new taxes: What’s not to like? A lot, apparently. Mr. Ducey’s plan disrupted the usual coalition of teachers unions and public school districts, leading some in the K-12 establishment—those administrators and union officials who have a way of soaking up dollars while doing little for students—to take the unfamiliar position of objecting to new education funding.

Arizona ranks near the bottom of states by total per-pupil funding. But instead of merely throwing money at unaccountable teachers unions, the state reformed the education system over decades with charter schools, student scholarships, education savings accounts, and other innovations. Now, by directing the new money directly to the teachers and classrooms instead of to district offices, Gov. Ducey is disrupting the age-old political coalition of teachers and administrators against parents, students, and taxpayers.

The state constitution requires the funding plan be approved by Arizona voters. Proposition 123 will be voted on in May.

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  1. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    He sounds great.  Is it too late for him to enter the Republican presidential primary?  I guess so but we need a inspirational governor badly.

    • #1
  2. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    My wife was a teacher in Arizona during the last time a bunch of money was thrown at the educational system there. She never saw a cent. Hopefully Ducey’s plan will do more for Arizona’s teachers than Brewer’s plan did.

    • #2
  3. Lucy Pevensie Inactive
    Lucy Pevensie
    @LucyPevensie

    I’d love to know the details of how he is keeping it directed towards the classroom and the teachers.

    • #3
  4. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    From what I have observed as a resident of two states, Oregon and Arizona, or more properly first impressions of the political scene in Arizona as compared to Oregon are:

    1. Oregon is a city state. Portland controls Oregon and Oregon is a one party state. That does not seem to be the case in Arizona.
    2. I live in Pinal County and so I am spared some of the nonsense that infects Pima County and Tucson. The Tucson city council and Pima County commissioners are just as dysfunctional as the Portland city council and Multnomah County commissioners.
    3. The newspaper of record in Tucson is called The Arizona Daily Star, it should be called the Red Star. The Oregonian is the newspaper of record for the entire state of Oregon, it’s all Portland all the time.
    4. In the most recent election all the bond measures in Pima County were defeated by voters. It seems that previous measures that had passed had funds redirected to projects that had nothing to do with the measures intent.
    5. School districts never have enough money, and “it’s for the children” is a cry common to both Oregon and Arizona.
    6. Potholes don’t get filled in Tucson or Portland.

    As someone who is politically conservative I do not feel like a stranger in a strange land in Arizona. The only reason that Portland is not a sister city to Pyongyang is that it is too Leftist for Kim Jong Un.

    • #4
  5. Brad2971 Member
    Brad2971
    @

    Manny:He sounds great. Is it too late for him to enter the Republican presidential primary? I guess so but we need a inspirational governor badly.

    Let’s see: A “inspirational governor” in an era where this nation may not be seeing another governor as president for up to a generation from right now?

    Don’t get me wrong: It’s always good to see a governor like Gov. Ducey use all the tools in the toolshed to solve issues. Just doesn’t mean he should be a presidential candidate for it, and especially one from Arizona.

    Barack Obama may have broken a long-standing pattern when he got elected in Nov. 2008. Bear in mind, before him, this nation had 28 of the previous 32 years of presidencies run by governors. Things that can’t go on forever, wont.

    • #5
  6. Quake Voter Inactive
    Quake Voter
    @QuakeVoter

    Jon, I am surprised you are ratifying Ducey’s attempt to micromanage our selfless superintendents.  The model for success is already set.  The 18/18 plan.  If Arizona can reduce class sizes to 18 and increase cash per kid to $18,000 it will produce the intellectual, cultural, civic and vocational excellence of Baltimore City Schools.

    My local schools in a remote corner of the Four Corners spend $14K per kid in classrooms with 22 pupils on average.  That’s $286,000 per classroom.  Average teacher salary with benefits and Ponzi PERA contribution is covered by the last five digits, leaving about $200,000.

    Commercial rent of $35,00 per foot for the entire school footprint would cost $50,000 per classroom if prime and our schools barely have primer in places.

    Transportation, lunch subsidy and extracurriculars are overstated at $30,000 per classroom, but let’s be overly fair.

    After accounting for all instructional, capital, transportation, and extracurricular expenses, we still have $120,000 per classroom in the budget.

    If you want to see the Common Core Chorus with full professional pique and condescension, suggest a 75% instructional spending mandate.  They’ve learned how to rope-a-dope the testing questions.  Lean a little left; lean a little right.

    They react to mandates to spend money in the classroom with professional disdain and scoffing.

    • #6
  7. HVTs Inactive
    HVTs
    @HVTs

    This is a testament to the need for non-career politicians in state government and at the national level. People who must find solutions to problems think differently than people who spend their time gathering campaign contributions from self-interested individuals and organizations.

    • #7
  8. HVTs Inactive
    HVTs
    @HVTs

    Brad2971: It’s always good to see a governor like Gov. Ducey use all the tools in the toolshed to solve issues. Just doesn’t mean he should be a presidential candidate for it … Obama may have broken a long-standing pattern when he got elected in Nov. 2008. Bear in mind, before him, this nation had 28 of the previous 32 years of presidencies run by governors. Things that can’t go on forever, wont.

    Yes, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush 43 were Governors. Bush 41 and Obama were not.  Only Clinton and Obama are reasonably described as career politicians. Clinton never won the popular vote and got elected the first time because Ross Perot took nearly 1 in 5 votes, mostly from Bush 41.  It’s easier for an incumbent to win re-election, especially when running against a brain dead fossil like Dole. Obama won reelection because at the precise moment to run against Obamacare the GOP nominated its Godfather, who also proved unable to land a punch against Candy Crowley, let alone a Chicago street fighter.

    So what’s this all prove?  Not much. Governors can’t print money.  Presidents are term-limited.  Let’s stop worrying about ‘who’ and instead worry about ‘what’ they can and cannot do. Impose constitutional limits on spending and term limits on Federal officials, including members of Congress and SCOTUS Justices. Instead of changing players on the field, we need to change the rules of the game.

    • #8
  9. SEnkey Inactive
    SEnkey
    @SEnkey

    I work as a principal in Pinal County, though very close to Maricopa, it’s a big county. I think one reason a lot of the ballot initiative fail is because more and more parents realize that those initiatives don’t pass money on to charter schools, where many of their students attend. More taxes with nothing more for their family, it’s an easy no. I work for a charter and can’t say I’m too upset by that.

    As to the Governor, I’m interested in how he will ensure the funds get to the classroom.

    • #9
  10. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    HVTs: Instead of changing players on the field, we need to change the rules of the game.

    I’m all for changing the rules, but who is this “we” that you speak of?

    • #10
  11. HVTs Inactive
    HVTs
    @HVTs

    The Reticulator:

    HVTs: Instead of changing players on the field, we need to change the rules of the game.

    I’m all for changing the rules, but who is this “we”…?

    The voters, acting through their state legislatures. In our system of “checks and balances” it’s state legislators alone who hold the final ‘check’ on federal power. They decide whether or not to wield a state’s sovereign authority to change the one thing that makes us one nation—the Constitution. Federal officials cannot manipulate, prevent or ignore state legislators if they act collectively to amend the Constitution.

    The Framers foresaw the possibility of an out-of-control federal government and they provided a solution in Article V, which sets out the Constitution’s two-step amendment process: first they are proposed, then they must be ratified by three-fourths of the States.

    All 27 amendments were first proposed by Congress, which requires a two-thirds vote of each chamber. Yet the Framers knew that if only Congress can propose amendments, citizens would be powerless to curb the federal government. Those abusing power do not, the Framers reasoned, reform themselves.

    This is why Article V includes the option of a “convention of the states for proposing amendments.” It is convened once two-thirds of state legislatures (34 states) invoke it in a formal resolution. Thus state legislators have the power to rein in the federal government.

    We are making more progress than most realize: check out conventionofstates.com

    • #11
  12. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    HVTs: This is why Article V includes the option of a “convention of the states for proposing amendments.” It is convened once two-thirds of state legislatures (34 states) invoke it in a formal resolution. Thus state legislators have the power to rein in the federal government. We are making more progress than most realize: check out conventionofstates.com

    But what if state governments use that power to expand the federal government, Donald Trump style?   Shouldn’t we be working the issue in other ways to generate support for doing the right thing?

    • #12
  13. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    New Zealand eliminated all, repeat all, the educational bureaucracy when they turned all schools over to individual boards composed of teachers and parents.  Any kid could go to any school in the country,  All the money followed the number of students so schools had to compete for students.    New Zealand went from the bottom of the industrial west to just below the super stars, Finland, Singapore and a few others I don’t remember.  We could do the same at the State and local level.  They would not need any Federal money if States did this.  Neither unions nor the educational bureaucracy contribute to education.

    • #13
  14. Johnny Dubya Inactive
    Johnny Dubya
    @JohnnyDubya

    “The su­per­in­ten­dent of Mesa Pub­lic Schools, Ari­zona’s largest dis­trict, launched an email and robo­call cam­paign to turn par­ents against the pro­posal. He in­sisted he was fight­ing for ‘the chil­dren,’ but he was less up­front about dis­clos­ing that his lob­by­ing ef­fort was funded with school-dis­trict money that could have been put into the class­room in­stead.”

    How is this even legal?! He used parents’ tax dollars for a campaign that was self-serving? If I were a parent in his district, I would be calling for his head.

    • #14
  15. HVTs Inactive
    HVTs
    @HVTs

    The Reticulator: But what if state governments use that power to expand the federal government …?

    There’s several reasons your scenario is not possible.

    The COS requires 34 states to pass a resolution (here’s Virginia’s) which declares the purpose of the COS is…

    …limited to proposing amendments to the United States Constitution that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.

    Your scenario requires the same state legislators who pass this resolution to send delegates to the COS who do the complete opposite.  Then they would have to sit idly by and just watch it happen. Of course they wouldn’t sit and do nothing would they?  They’d recall the apostates and send new, better-vetted delegates.  Also, any proposed amendments which completely contravene the stated purpose of the COS would be challenged and ruled out-of-order—they’d never survive the COS, let alone become law.

    If this impossible scenario did occur, there’s an indisputable fail-safe written into the Constitution.  Ratification.  All proposed amendments must be ratified by three-fourths of the states!  (Said another way, with one chamber of 13 state legislatures any proposed amendment is scuttled.)

    So, at least 34 states have passed the resolution outlined above but somehow 38 states will ratify amendments which do the complete opposite?  When pigs learn to fly and shrimp learn to whistle . . .

    • #15
  16. HVTs Inactive
    HVTs
    @HVTs

    The Reticulator: Shouldn’t we be working the issue in other ways to generate support for doing the right thing?

    If we agree that “the right thing” is to amend the Constitution, what “other way” is there besides Article V?  What other way is there to “generate support” other than what we’ve managed to get hundreds of thousands of people involved with across every state in the Union?  Already four states have passed our resolution and it’s under consideration in 36 other State Legislatures.  I’m open to suggestions, but you’ve got a hell of a hill to climb to get where we’ve already arrived.

    What we need is for people like you to get engaged with their state legislators to make sure we get this done before the Demicans and Republicrats completely destroy this country.

    • #16
  17. HVTs Inactive
    HVTs
    @HVTs

    Johnny Dubya: How is this even legal?! He used parents’ tax dollars for a campaign that was self-serving? If I were a parent in his district, I would be calling for his head.

    The education-union-political complex learned long ago that laws only matter if they are enforced.  You don’t think the moral outrage of parents is a serious impediment to these racketeers, do you? Puhleeze!

    • #17
  18. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    Johnny Dubya:“The su­per­in­ten­dent of Mesa Pub­lic Schools, Ari­zona’s largest dis­trict, launched an email and robo­call cam­paign to turn par­ents against the pro­posal. He in­sisted he was fight­ing for ‘the chil­dren,’ but he was less up­front about dis­clos­ing that his lob­by­ing ef­fort was funded with school-dis­trict money that could have been put into the class­room in­stead.”

    How is this even legal?!He used parents’ tax dollars for a campaign that was self-serving?If I were a parent in his district, I would be calling for his head.

    I live in his district. Now you see why my kids attend a charter school. :)

    • #18
  19. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    HVTs: This is why Article V includes the option of a “convention of the states for proposing amendments.” It is convened once two-thirds of state legislatures (34 states) invoke it in a formal resolution. Thus state legislators have the power to rein in the federal government. We are making more progress than most realize: check out conventionofstates.com

    I’m a big fan of Article V. The states created the federal government, not the other way around. I will be attending a day-long event to learn more about the initiatives next weekend.

    • #19
  20. HVTs Inactive
    HVTs
    @HVTs

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: I’m a big fan of Article V. The states created the federal government, not the other way around. I will be attending a day-long event to learn more about the initiatives next weekend.

    That’s very encouraging news!  Hope you’ll write about it here for the Ricochetti!

    I know of no other political organization or activity other than the Article V movement that fundamentally challenges the status quo in a way that’s both constitutional and realistic.  Which isn’t to say it’s not a long shot . . . this is bloody hard work and on the Center-Right there’s mountains of inertia to overcome.  One hopes that among Ricochetti it’s unfamiliarity rather than apathy.

    I constantly wonder—what are people actually willing to DO about the mess this country is in, as opposed to endlessly TALKING about our problems, about this or that idea, about this or that candidate?  Step-up people! Get engaged & stay engaged at the State level—it’s the only avenue of approach we have to reach the target.

    • #20
  21. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    I Walton:New Zealand eliminated all, repeat all, the educational bureaucracy when they turned all schools over to individual boards composed of teachers and parents. Any kid could go to any school in the country, All the money followed the number of students so schools had to compete for students. New Zealand went from the bottom of the industrial west to just below the super stars, Finland, Singapore and a few others I don’t remember. We could do the same at the State and local level. They would not need any Federal money if States did this. Neither unions nor the educational bureaucracy contribute to education.

    We need to do that in this country immediately.

    • #21
  22. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    Manny:

    I Walton:New Zealand eliminated all, repeat all, the educational bureaucracy when they turned all schools over to individual boards composed of teachers and parents. …

    We need to do that in this country immediately.

    Well, maybe. Here is some research. Note that the NZ system was, and remains, very different to those in the US. Although the complaints about under-resourcing remain the same.

    To me, it’s pretty obvious governments do education really badly, so compulsory education needs to be abolished.

    • #22
  23. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    This is clearly a terrible indictment of the system we live under today.

    Not the whole education thing. What. Ever.

    I mean Jon having to write for the MSM. And feeling proud of it. For shame!

    • #23
  24. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    genferei: To me, it’s pretty obvious governments do education really badly, so compulsory education needs to be abolished.

    Crazy talk. I love it.

    • #24
  25. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    genferei:Well, maybe. Here is some research. Note that the NZ system was, and remains, very different to those in the US. Although the complaints about under-resourcing remain the same.

    Yeah, that’s some research, all right.  They interviewed principals, teachers, and parents, and then told us that that the principals and teachers want more money. But they neglected to tell us whether day follows night. And somehow the parents were left out of those summary results.

    Also note that this was research conducted by the Ministry of Education.  A government agency whose own funding is at issue is not going to have an independent viewpoint.

    • #25
  26. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    When I was a kid in elementary school 28-32 kids per teacher was common. Now it is 20 – 25. We keep shrinking class sizes thinking it improves educational results. All it really does is increase the influence of teacher unions.

    • #26

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