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Arizona 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.