Governor Ducey has learned a thing or two from recent history.  President George Bush promised no new taxes, saying, “READ MY LIPS …” New taxes were needed.  This certainly played a role in losing his re-election bid to Bill Clinton.

No new taxes, balanced budget … those are Ducey’s things.  They sound wonderful, I’d highly consider voting for someone who did both of those, especially a president!  But let’s look just under the surface.

The short-story:  Arizona is growing.  If the state does not provide additional funding for public services like health care, transportation, police and fire, and education, then local communities and municipalities must do so to care for their residents.  

Here’s how it works for education. Other things like fire stations and police departments work in a similar fashion.  Education is 18% of the state budget, which is around $10 billion a year.  It is well documented how that leaves public education in Arizona, ranking 51st in working conditions for teachers in the US (including Washington DC).  

To keep buildings maintained and busses running, schools must ask their local communities to help bridge the gap in the form of bonds and overrides.  These create extra costs themselves and are additional layers of government which are inefficient.  

Bonds are essentially loans that the community pays for with property taxes.  It costs money to run the election for the bond, to manage the bond money, pay back the bond, and then of course the interest the bond earns.  Bonds cannot be used to pay teachers or staff.

The amount of money a school can spend is set by the state.  An override is a locally voter approved measure that will allow a school to spend up to 15% more than the limit set by the state (this is a simplification of how overrides work, but this is the basic idea).  Schools rely heavily on these measures to keep programs running.

All of this is just for education, not fire departments, police departments, or other public services.

Nobody wants to pay more taxes, especially if the money is wasted, right?  It is nice to live in a state with corporate and personal tax rates that are friendly (low).  But, our local and state sales taxes are high, 6th highest in the nation!  In addition, almost 8% of the tax (sales and property) we collect goes to pay interest (see bonds above).

A dollar only goes so far.  The governor has had many things in place that essentially rob Peter to pay Paul, but it appears that gig is up.  A new tax on vehicle registration, technically called a fee, had to be introduced to help pay for transportation, roads, and highway patrol because neither Peter or Paul had any money left to spare.

Here is the kicker … Arizona forgave over $13 billion in corporate taxes in 2017 through tax exemptions and other programs!  But does that entice corporations to move to Arizona? One of the key features sought by companies like Amazon, who is looking to open a second headquarters, is a good public education system.  Both Tucson and Phoenix were removed from the list of potential cities because of the state of public education in Arizona.

 

To summarize, $10 billion isn’t enough money to pay for public services.  Local municipalities go into debt with bonds and have to raise local taxes to pay for those bonds.  A significant portion of the additional money raised by these taxes pays for the interest on those bonds.  

Local communities are scrambling to keep up with growth and service the public while the governor is handing out corporate tax exemptions that far exceed the state’s budget.  The claim is that businesses will be attracted to Arizona. Yet, without a quality public education system, Arizona’s appeal is knocked down several pegs.

Arizona’s corporate tax rate of 4.9% is the 9th lowest in the United States.  

Our state budget might be balanced, but our state is in debt.  

The governor isn’t raising taxes, or even collecting them from corporations.

I’m just a math teacher, I don’t know much about economies.  But this solution seems almost too obvious to state. Why not collect $10 billion of those tax exemptions and double the state budget.  We could build a quality public education system, better infrastructure for growth, and a state of the art health-care program (to attract our main commodity, snow-birds).

The strike is upon us.  We will have a lot of work to do.  One of our many jobs will be to address concerns of the public that doesn’t see things our way.  How we do this is probably more important that what we actually do and say.  Keep that in mind.    

Public education is a mess, especially here in Arizona.  While we have the #REDforED movement and the newly created AEU (www.arizonaeducatorsunited.com), if the movement wasn’t named this and wasn’t started by the AEU, it would have had some other name and been made by some other upstart organization.  

This is truly an emergent phenomenon where the relationship between the parts creates its unity instead of a leader.  Even though there is no leader there is behavior that is specific and easily identified.

The condition of public education brought about this movement, not the teachers or those that wish to piggy-back on the momentum and power this movement has gathered to service their own agendas.

There are people pretty far removed from the reality of the nature of education, there are also trolls.  Regardless of who it is you encounter, be respectful, seek to understand their position, and work to establish a good connection.  If the person is a troll and you respond in kind you’ll only provide the trolls with fuel for their fire. Remember, trolls don’t care what burns, they just love a good funeral pyre.  

I’d like to spend the rest of the time you’ll lend me reading this to discuss common objections by level headed people that aren’t on board with #REDforED.  Some of these objections may seem outlandish, inflammatory even, but a good response with engaging in an argument is still appropriate. However, if you feel you cannot respond to comments without anger, it’s best to move along and keep your mouth shut.  

If you have an additional response, or would like to add an objection and response, please do so in the comments below.

Why fund education when there is no return on investment?  (Why throw money at a broken system … that type of question)

Response 1:  If your car ran out of gas it would not run.  Why spend money on it?

Response 2:  Perhaps less snarky:  The government has crippled public education both financially but also with the advent of a bloated and largely pointless testing system and failures of curriculum overhaul and implementation.  The little money we get we have to spend to administer these tests and to integrate these new curricula.

They have had a negative effect on education.  Yet, that is not the fault of the educator but the politician, the same politicians who say, through action and sometime verbally, that education does not need greater fundinng.

I cannot afford more taxes to pay for education.  The governor says he is not going to raise taxes, I support that.

Response 1:  By not funding education taxes on the middle class home-owner will be raised, and government will be expanded…just not directly by Ducey, but in response to his in-action. Schools absolutely need money for building maintenance, textbooks, transportation and equipment.  The state has not provided that funding. In return districts must pass bonds and overrides. A bond is a local tax.

To have a bond a committee is formed, campaign is run and election is held.  This takes a significant portion of the money raised by the bond to pay for the bond.  This is more government and less efficiency.

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Schools should just be privatized.

Response 1:  A company that is subsidized with public (taxed) money is not private at all. The way our charter and private schools are set up is they receive money from the public but do not have the accountability of a public agency.  That might not sound so bad until you realize that many of these “private” schools are directly tied to the personal finances of politicians.

The school system is outdated and doesn’t serve the needs of students.

Response 1:  There might be a lot of merit to that statement.  But, how does not funding the system to allow students to get the greatest experience from the current system fix that problem?  Education reform will be expensive!

However, the idea held by most of the antiquated system is one where people believe students are run through a mechanized brain-washing, industrialized program is just so far removed from reality that there’s little way to respond.

Tuition money should follow the student, not the school.

Response 1:  If the majority of taxpayers in the wealthiest part of the state were allowed to claim their money should not be used to maintain state infrastructure in Cochise County, would that be good for the state?  

Response 2:  A quality public education system should provide equal access and footing for all young people so they can be equipped and prepared to better themselves as adults.  This is what is best for our state.

You knew it didn’t pay when you got in it…why complain now.  Find a new job.

Response 1:  Just a handful of years ago teacher salaries were enough to live on and structures were in place to keep up with inflation.  Between pay freezes and inflation teachers are now living below the poverty line and often qualify for food stamps and public assistance.  

Response 2:  Teaching is a career, not a job.  A lot of training and education has been performed, years of investment and focus have been devoted to become a teacher.

Teachers are just greedy.  

Response 1:  Obviously, that’s why they got into education.  See the previous objection.

Response 2:  Teachers are not accepting the 20×2020 deal from Ducey because it does not prioritize education, is not sustainable and does not fund education.  It is a pay-off, to shut teachers up so he can focus on his upcoming election.

$48,000 is a decent wage, balance your budget, live within your means.

Response 1:  Okay, pay me $48,000.  

Response 2:  Districts and the state report total compensation (including what it costs them to have teachers as employees) and Proposition 301 money as salary.  Prop 301 money varies annually and both the state and districts don’t always use it to supplement teacher income. It is not a contracted source of income.  There are also a lot of people working as administrators or in administrative capacities on teacher contracts, earning administrative levels of pay.

Teachers only work 180 days a year, 7 hours a day.

Response 1:  Students only have school 180 days a year, 7 hours a day.  Teachers are working when students aren’t in class.

Response 2:  Does a band only work when they’re at a concert?  Do football teams only work 16 Sundays a year? Do our elected officials only work when they’re in session?  

Do we have money for these demands?

Response 1:  Basically, yes.  Arizona’s economy is growing faster than the national average.  Our population is growing as are the number of jobs.

Why pay for public education when private education is better?

Response 1:  Without addressing the logical fallacy, begging the question, here, not all students have access to private education.  

Response 2:  Private education is not private in Arizona, largely speaking. They are state subsidized with no financial accountability.

Response 3:  There are great public schools.  There are great private schools. There are terrible examples of both.  However, the great private schools do not have the level of special education students, non-english speaking students, homeless students, students from broken homes and other factors that a public school will have.  For a public school to be great it has to be far more efficient than a private school because of these issues.

This is a political move to elect a democrat as governor.

Response 1:  When dealing with public issues politics can be involved.  We don’t care which party funds education, it just needs to be funded.