In case you missed it this week, settlement talks in the lawsuit over education funding in Arizona have reached an impasse. At issue is the State’s refusal to adequately fund Arizona schools via voter demanded automatic inflation adjustments above statutory “base level” funding. Per a Maricopa County Superior Court ruling in 2014, Arizona schools are now owed $331 million in inflation funding for this year. (The issue of $1.3 billion (with a ‘B’) in missing payments going back to 2008 has yet to be addressed.) Not wanting to appear totally dismissive of this ruling, the GOP-led state legislature graciously budgeted for $74 million in K-12 funding of the $331 million owed.
Rather than call for an immediate special legislative session to address the disbanded settlement talks, Governor Doug Ducey could only express his outrage by stating that he was… “disappointed.” Not to be outdone, GOP leaders (with LD 17 Senator Steve Yarbrough leading the charge) offered up a new “plan” to solve Arizona education funding woes. Among other things, this shortsighted proposal involves raiding from AZ’s early-childhood First Things First program and boosting K-12 contributions from the state land-trust’s permanent fund (both of which would require voter approval).
What’s the bottom-line for AZ schools, teachers, parents and students? If you’re holding out for additional funds for this school year, it may be time to reset your expectations. Even IF the new GOP funding proposal was reasonable, most aspects of the plan will require voters to weigh in next year. This does nothing to help our children now.
Looking at my own daughters, I’m reminded daily that Sara will only be a third-grader… ONCE; Caitlin will only be freshman… ONCE. While our Governor and State Legislature may have the benefit of time on their side to appeal funding rulings and unapologetically disobey voter mandates, Arizona children do not have the same luxury.
It’s very easy to feel helpless to change the status quo as a sole member of a community; that one voice won’t matter. So, what can we do as citizen’s to change this situation? The simple answer is… VOTE! VOTE for those that truly have you and your family’s best interests at heart, and not their own. VOTE for leaders who view elections as a path to public service, not a vehicle to boost their own status or ego. VOTE for candidates that value public education and those that see education as THE KEY DIFFERENTIATOR when it comes to long-term personal and community prosperity. (Remember, we have voter apathy to thank for Diane Douglas… enough said, I suppose.)
And for those that maybe feel inclined to give a little more than a simple vote? Get involved! Attend a district meeting. Make some phone calls. Display a yard sign. Donate your time and money to a cause you’re passionate about or a candidate you support. It’s all important. It all matters.