AZ ‘State of Education’ is, yet once again, in CRISIS
14th Feb 2022
Today is Statehood Day for Arizona, which became the 48th state to join the Union on Feb. 14, 1912.
Last week, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman delivered her “State of Education” address to the Senate Education Committee. Spoiler alert: It’s in crisis.
Education in crisis is nothing new to the 48th state that often hovers around 48th in student achievement scores and 48th in per-pupil spending – and unable to do the math to figure out why.
But this year’s education crisis is particularly of the head-scratching variety. As Hoffman said: “The money was already budgeted, already approved in last legislative session. This is money already in the bank for our districts, they simply need permission to spend it. It’s extraordinary that they are not sticking with the budget that was set last year, especially considering it would mean a $1.1 billion cut to education in Arizona.”
Recapping: It’s not that the money hasn’t been budgeted or even allocated by the Legislature. It has to do with public schools exceeding the 1980 voter-mandated state’s constitutional spending limits, something the Legislature has done in recent years without much drama. But the chance of quickly getting a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate during these polarizing times is – well, you can do the math.
Never mind that without the already-approved-but-not-yet-totally-doubly-approved additional funding, schools would have to close, programs would have to be closed, bus drivers laid off, graduation ceremonies cancelled, etc.
In other words: CRISIS.
And again, never mind that the money is already there, having been approved in last year’s budget by the Legislature. This is merely a procedural act, which nowadays equates to a political ploy.
Republicans are banking on a Maricopa County Superior Court judge to rule voter-approved Proposition 208 as unconstitutional, but they’re tired of waiting. GOP Lawmakers are urging the Arizona Supreme Court to immediately rule the tax on the wealthy to be unconstitutional, since the $800 million a year for K-12 education in being treated as “grants” and not expenditures. In other words, to certain legislators, it’s just a scheme to bypass the state’s constitutional spending caps on education.
Until that matter is settled, Republican leadership and followers aren’t willing to budge on the other constitutional spending limits item on education – the already-approved budget for school districts held in limbo, meaning a 16% overall cut in education unless an exemption is approved by March 1. At this point, two bills to address the crisis haven’t even been assigned to a committee for a hearing.
In other words, the “State of Education” in Arizona in crisis. We have seen this movie before because it’s one of the films always showing in Arizona’s political theater. The cliffhanger once again is in full reel: Education and the future of our children – and of Arizona itself – once again are legitimately at extreme risk and peril.
The clock is ticking. The thin plot barely thickens. The popcorn has gone stale.
To email your legislator, click here.
To see how your school district would be affected by the cuts, click here.
By Joseph Garcia
CPLC Action Fund