Governor Ducey claims he is giving a 20% raise to teachers in Arizona by 2020.  Let’s dig in and see what it’s all about. As is often the case with politicians, what isn’t being told is very important, it completes the picture.  What is Governor Ducey hiding here?

But first, a little history to contextualize the source.  Under Governor Jan Brewer, Doug Ducey served as State Treasurer.  Money was illegally taken from Proposition 301 (education money), and a suit was filed.  The state of Arizona lost the suit and the money that was taken from public education was to be restored.  In response, Governor Ducey came up with Prop 123, which essentially settled the debt for around 7 cents for every dollar owed.  

The dark money sponsoring the governor and his programs billed the proposition as a boon for public education.  Arizona voters have consistently voted pro-education funding and so the proposition passed. Ever since then Governor Ducey has cited Prop 123 as how generous he’s been towards public education.

Despite the funding for public education in 2017/18 being $1.1 billion below the funding a decade before (not adjusted for inflation), the governor refused to provide more than a 1% raise for teachers.  Teachers mobilized and he came up with his 20×2020 plan.  Again, he has claimed that he has always invested in public education and worked hard to fund those programs that protect the most vulnerable of our citizens.

It is as if there were 20 cookies in the cookie jar and without permission he took 18 of them.  When caught he put two back, then pointed and claimed, “Look at how many cookies I’m putting in the cookie jar!  I’ve increased it by 100%!”

Now, also keep in mind this is an election year.  

Politicians are clever with how things are worded.  The 20×2020 plan has been said to be a raise for teachers, 20% by the year 2020, and 10% this year.  But, as you’ll see, this is really a 5.7% bump in education funding. Of course that is a desperately needed influx of new money, but the problem is it leaves us about $700 million short of what funding for education was a decade ago.  It falls far short of the claim that this plan, “Fully restores recession-era cuts.”

Here are the details about how the 10% was calculated and how it is being distributed, which are why it is a 5.7% increase in education funding and not a 10% teacher raise. Governor Ducey took the average salary for people that fit his narrow definition of teachers (many elective, art, and special ed teachers are not counted) and increased that amount by 10%.  He then took total and added it to the ADM (you can read about ADM here if you like).  For all intents and purposes, ADM is used to calculate the money that schools receive, like what might be thought of as a general fund.

The increase in ADM is about 5.7% over last year.  There is no legally binding language or even hand-shake agreements that earmark the money to go to teachers and or staff.  The governor can say the money is for raises to the press, but what’s written and legal is what is real. Districts have discretion to use the money however they see best, without any guidelines even suggesting it goes to staff.

Here’s the rub: People read the headlines and hear a 20% increase in funding (Often websites misrepresent this by saying the increase is in education funding, not teacher pay. CNN reports, Arizona teacher walkout ends with new education funding,).  Teacher pay is, of course, just a part of education funding.  And not all teachers were even considered when coming up with the total amount to be added to the “general fund.”  The actual amount of increase is far less than it appears and far less than needed.

 

And some districts will really suffer.  Districts will not receive a 10% increase based on their “teacher” salaries, but instead will receive the 5.7% increase of the ADM.  Some districts will be far short of the 10% of teacher salaries, other will be far ahead.

This is also very important because one the of the major victories that the #REDforED movement had was to get people to focus their attention on the state, not the local districts.  The expectation of a 10% raise can easily become a major problem for districts that do not have that amount of money! The governor can sit back, point his finger and say, “Go ask your district, I gave them the money and the freedom to make sure it goes where it’s needed!”

This can easily take the focus off of the governor and put it on local districts, and inappropriately so.

It gets worse.  There are two other major problems with this proposal.  The first is that the proposal is not a piece of education reform legislation but a budget.  Budgets are only valid for one year. They carry no legally binding value beyond that. If the governor is not re-elected, this “deal” is dead and gone.  If he is re-elected, the 20×2020 plan is a promise from a person who has repeatedly taken money from public education (even illegally), and who is likely to run for a national level position once his next term is complete (reads little concern for righting any wrong).

The second major problem is that a portion of the money injected into education will require certain districts to raise their property taxes. In order for this to be legal, according to the Arizona constitution, a ⅔’s majority vote would be required.  The governor has tried this before and it was struck down by the state supreme court.  It is entirely likely that a lawsuit will be filed over this unconstitutional raising of property taxes.

In the past Doug Ducey has defunded public education and has only stopped when he had little or not choice (lawsuit, 75,000 marching on the capitol).  He is up for re-election in a few short months and has whipped up what he claims is a 20% raise for teachers in a few years. This is a misrepresentation of reality, one that leaves education over $700 million short of its claim!

It is my humble opinion that this is a ploy to buy some time … time enough to get the election behind him.  And his ploy is working. Over 75% of Arizonans are in favor of the program.  What would that percentage be if they understood it was a 5.7% increase, leaving us $700 million short of where we were a decade ago?