Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Prop 123 was the START line, not the FINISH line

Arizona’s public schools will get SOME of the money that Republicans illegally withheld from them because of Prop 123’s recent passage. But it is not time to celebrate, despite the signals coming from Gov. Ducey’s office, because Prop 123 funding only begins to make things right for our public schools.

One thing is abundantly clear: we need to hold Gov. Ducey and Legislative Republicans accountable if we hope to see a meaningful second step for public education funding.  Arizona has crossed the START line, but Prop 123 funding does not undo the years of funding cuts imposed on school districts, and schools need more.  Take, for example, the very basic question of building maintenance. While Prop 123 money will boost classroom resources, it does nothing for the classrooms themselves—or the hallways, cafeterias, libraries and gymnasiums that Arizona school kids use every day.

The fund that is supposed to keep school buildings safe is still hundreds of millions of dollars short. The Legislature has a responsibility to keep school buildings properly maintained, but it has consistently fallen down on the job. And just as Prop 123 finally settles a five-year lawsuit over school funding, the state may be facing a new lawsuit over maintenance funding.

Legislative Republicans and Gov. Ducey should be deeply ashamed. Prop 123 was necessary because Republican leaders have spent years prioritizing special interest tax cuts at public education’s expense. As Joe Thomas, president-elect of the Arizona Education Association, recently said, “We have unspent revenues, we have unspent rainy day funds.” And that is the bottom line: Arizona has the resources to forge the strongest public schools in the nation, but only if Republican leaders join Democrats in making that a priority.


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