Robb: Prop. 123 – what’s best for Arizona schools?

Robert Robb, The Republic | azcentral.com
http://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/robertrobb/2016/05/11/prop-123-vote-yes/84191600/

Should getting more money to Arizona schools be this hard?

If Proposition 123 passes next Tuesday, schools will get a lot of additional dough. And quickly.

Schools would get an additional $224 million the very next month, June. And an additional $230 million over the next fiscal year (July 2016 through June 2017). So, a total of $454 million over the next 13 months.

Education organizations representing teachers, administrators, school boards and parents are supporting Prop. 123. The business community has rallied strongly behind it and provided the pro campaign with a ton of cash.

Still, what opponents lack in organization and money they are making up in hot air. And, oddly, their narrative has dominated the public debate and discussion.

The opposition narrative, however, is based mostly on material misrepresentations and wishful thinking about alternatives. So, it’s worth revisiting some Prop. 123 basics.

Why are we voting on this, anyway?

Prop. 123 settles a lawsuit brought by some schools over the failure of the state to increase the base level, the starting point of the basic state aid formula, to reflect inflation for four years following the recession.

According to opponents, the courts have ordered the Legislature to increase the base level by $337 million and the Legislature has ignored the order. That’s a fundamentally dishonest description of the status of the litigation.

At issue is the maintenance of effort requirement in Proposition 301, referred by the Legislature in 2000 and approved by voters. Prop. 301 increased the sales tax by six-tenths of a percent and earmarked the proceeds for education. It also required the state to increase the base level for basic state aid to reflect inflation, up to 2 percent.

The schools filed the lawsuit in 2010. The first Superior Court judge to hear the case found that the Legislature owed nothing. That the people, acting in their legislative capacity, couldn’t bind a future Legislature acting in its legislative capacity.

$337 million or $75 million? That’s the fight

The schools appealed. Ultimately, the Arizona Supreme Court found that the Legislature had to abide by the maintenance of effort requirement. But the Supreme Court didn’t order that the state pay any specific amount. Instead, it remanded the case to Superior Court.

There is now a legal dispute over how to calculate the inflation adjustment. For three years during the 2000s, the base level was increased by more than inflation.

The Legislature says that these supplemental increases shouldn’t count in calculating what is owed today. Since the Supreme Court decision, it has appropriated what it maintains is owed, roughly an additional $75 million a year.

The schools maintain that if the Legislature increases the base level by more than inflation in any particular year, that just ratchets up the base for future inflation adjustments. That yields the $337 million number.

Schools get more in this deal than lawmakers

Another Superior Court judge found in favor of the schools. The Legislature has appealed. Rather than continue to litigate, a settlement midwifed by Gov. Doug Ducey’s office was reached.

Under the settlement, schools will receive nearly $300 million more in annual funding, or much closer to the position of the schools than the Legislature. There’s a reason the schools regard the settlement as a win.

Part of the settlement funding comes from an increase in distributions from the state land trust. The distribution is set forth in the Arizona Constitution. Changing it requires a constitutional amendment. The Arizona Constitution can only be changed with a vote of the people. Hence Prop. 123.

If Prop. 123 fails, the $454 million goes away

If Prop. 123 passes, schools will receive an additional $3.5 billion over 10 years. Of that amount, $2.2 billion would come from the additional distribution from the trust. The state general fund would be responsible for $1.3 billion.

And if Prop. 123 fails?

Here’s what we know for certain. The additional state land distribution will not occur.

As a litigation strategy, the Legislature would probably continue appropriating the $75 million that is owed as it calculates inflation.

The settlement obligates it to appropriate an additional $50 million a year for five years and $75 million a year for the five years after that. That obligation would go away.

The schools would not receive an additional $454 million over the next 13 months.

Other than that, everything is uncertain.

The litigation would presumably resume. How long it would take and what the outcome would be is speculation.

Surplus is gone and tax cuts aren’t enough

The breezy claim that there are easy alternatives to getting schools the same or more money is obfuscation.

The surplus? It’s gone. The Legislature spent it in the last budget, partly on education and partly on other stuff, such as the Department of Child Safety.

Delay tax cuts? According to legislative budgeteers, there is just $124 million in new and phased-in tax cuts scheduled for the next fiscal year. So, that’s $330 million short of what Prop. 123 will produce in the same period of time.

Taxes can be increased. I’m all for it. I’ve been advocating a general fund tax increase since it was clear that the temporary 1 percent sales tax wasn’t going to be an adequate bridge from the recession’s decimation of state revenues.

But the schools are owed a measure of political realism. Should increased funding for them be based on a bet that defeat of Prop. 123 will change Ducey’s mind about taxes or that a Legislature willing to increase taxes will be elected this November? That’s a very bad bet.

Prop. 123 doesn’t stop larger funding talk

And here’s the most perplexing thing about the opposition to Prop. 123: Its passage doesn’t preclude any of the alternatives opponents claim to prefer. Nothing about passage of Prop. 123 prevents the election of what opponents would regard as a better Legislature and governor. Passage of Prop. 123 doesn’t preclude a broader education funding initiative in 2018.

In fact, a broader discussion of education funding is inevitable. The expiration of Prop. 301’s sales tax in 2021 makes it unavoidable.

In the meantime, if Prop. 123 passes, the schools would be getting more money at a time they really need it.

And at a time they have been shortchanged not only by the general fund, but also by the state land trust. Since 2000, the trust has retained rather than distributed $1.7 billion in earnings. Prop. 123 mostly requires the trust to disgorge earnings that the schools should have been receiving all along.

Money goes to public – not private – schools

The schools are both the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and the beneficiaries of the trust. If they think the settlement is fair and increased distribution from the trust is appropriate, shouldn’t some deference be paid to that? Opponents who say continue the litigation or get the money from some other source are claiming they know what’s best for schools better than those who run them or teach in them. A bit of hubris there.

There is a lot of politics in the opposition. Opponents fear that passage of Prop. 123 will enable the agenda of Ducey and GOP legislators to cut taxes and increase assistance to charter and private schools. But they have the analysis backwards.

The settlement appropriates an additional $625 million over the next 10 years from the general fund to public schools based upon enrollment. If Prop. 123 is defeated, that money is up for grabs.

Voting down Prop. 123 won’t punish lawmakers

And then there is the emotional gravamen. For many opponents, Prop. 123 isn’t really a school finance measure. It’s a referendum on Ducey and the GOP Legislature.

In this view, a yes vote means that Ducey and the Legislature are doing a good job on education. A no vote means that they aren’t.

But that’s also massively unfair to schools. Prop. 123 is a school finance measure. If it is defeated, nothing bad happens to Ducey and the Legislature. But the schools lose $454 million over the next 13 months.

Passage of Prop. 123 gets the schools more money and settles a lawsuit. Its defeat guarantees nothing and provides a pathway to nowhere.

Reach Robb at robert.robb@arizonarepublic.com.

Prop 123 Proponents Make Their Case on Arizona PBS’ Horizon

Advocates for Proposition 123 appeared on KAET’s Horizon on Monday evening to make the case for passage of Prop 123. Here is the video of that show featuring Chris Thomas, General Counsel for the Arizona School Boards Association:

Poll: Prop 123 Shows Strong Numbers With Early Voting Underway

Predictive Insights

Bi-partisan support for prop 123

PHOENIX (April 27, 2016) — Arizona’s special election for two statewide initiatives including the education bill, Proposition 123, will be voted on May 17th, 2016.

In a survey of 665 likely special election voters, 59.7 percent said they would vote in favor of Prop 123.

Prop 123 – Education Funding
April 25, 2016 Results
Definitely Yes 38.5%
Probably Yes 21.2%
Probably No 9%
Definitely No 24.4%
Unsure/Undecided 6.9%

“Early indicators show strong support for Proposition 123 across all demographics,” Mike Noble, Pollster & Managing Partner of OH Predictive Insights said, “It is surprising to see only 6.9% of likely voters are undecided which tells us voters are keenly aware of the measure.  If you hear someone talking about this next time you are in-line at the grocery store – don’t be surprised.”

Wes Gullett, Partner in OH Predictive Insights and political consultant was impressed that the Yes vote is strong across all demographics and was cautiously positive about the results. “Democrats, Republicans and Independents are all voting yes close to 60%.  However, with ballot measures typically the ‘No’ vote does a better than the polling on election day so the Yes side needs to have a strong turnout of supporters over the next three weeks,” Gullett said.

Methodology: This automated survey was completed by OH Predictive Insights on April 25th, 2016, from a sample of likely special election voters from across Arizona who first answered they were “likely” or “very likely” to vote in the 2016 May 17th special election in Arizona. The sample size was 665 completed surveys, with a Margin of Error of ± 3.8%

VIDEO: Parents are rallying behind Prop 123

Here is the latest ad by Prop 123 showing parents rallying behind the measure to get more money in their children’s classrooms.

Parents are rallying behind Prop 123 because it will put $3.5 billion into the classroom over the next 10 years. It will help Arizona schools pay teachers what they deserve and ensure our students have the resources they need in the classroom.
Share this video with a parent you know, so they know that a YES vote on Prop 123 is our best chance to improve our public schools.

WATCH: Get Out The Vote For Prop 123

Did you get your early ballot in the mail?

When you do, vote YES on Prop 123, and put it right back in your mailbox. If you plan to vote on Election Day, make sure you mark your calendar for May 17!

Why?

Prop 123 will put $3.5 billion into K-12 public schools over the next 10 years without raising your taxes. That’s money our kids and teachers need to succeed in the classroom.

Today, the campaign released a new video with parents, grandparents and teachers urging you to vote YES on Prop 123. It’s a common-sense solution that better uses our state land trust for its intended purpose: funding our public schools. And it protects the trust, which will still grow by $1 billion over 10 years if Prop 123 passes.

Can we count on you to vote YES on Prop 123?

Team Prop 123

Get the Facts on Prop 123

GetFacts123

Early voting has started, so we want to make sure you have the facts about Proposition 123 before you cast your ballot.  Prop 123 is a sustainable plan to fund K-12 education in Arizona and give teachers and students the resources they need.

Please forward this post to at least one friend or family member to make sure they have the facts before voting in the May 17 special election.

Get the facts below, visit YESProp123.com, or email contact@yesprop123.com if you have questions!

  • Prop 123 doesn’t raise taxes. Prop 123 uses additional dollars from the state land trust fund to give teachers and students the resources they need without raising our taxes. It’s a financially responsible and sustainable way to help our schools.
  • Prop 123 puts $3.5 billion into the classroom. This money will have a real impact over the next decade. It will give teachers and students stability and the resources they need to succeed.
  • Prop 123 gives local control to school districts. No one knows better where this money needs to go than principals, school board members, and teachers. Prop 123 will give individual districts control over the funds to ensure local decision-making and teacher input.
  • Prop 123 protects the trust. According to the non-partisan Joint Legislative Budget Committee, even with the higher distributions of funds from Prop 123, the state land trust will grow by over $1 billion over 10 years. The trust will continue to grow under Prop 123 so it can fund education for future generations.
  • Prop 123 keeps quality teachers. Teachers are fleeing Arizona because of a lack of financial support for education. This will reverse that trend and help pay our teachers what they deserve.

Learn more about why Prop 123 is a financially responsible solution in Robert Robb’s column, “Prop. 123 doesn’t bust the state land trust” below.

Thanks,

Team Prop 123

Gov Ducey: Why Vote For Prop 123? Some Teachers Have More Kids Than Books​

Vote Prop 123

By: Governor Doug Ducey

This week, Arizonans will receive early ballots in the mail for one of the most important policy initiatives of this election cycle – the passage of Proposition 123 to increase funding for public schools in Arizona.

As many in our state know, there has been a dark cloud hanging over Arizona’s budget when it comes to funding education.

Our kids have needs today

Voting “yes” on Prop. 123 will settle a years-long lawsuit and put $3.5 billion into our K-12 public schools over the next 10 years without raising taxes. It’s time to stop paying lawyers and start paying teachers.

I’ve visited schools all across our state, and the message is clear. Our kids have needs today, and our educators need more resources to do their jobs.

Prop. 123 is a fiscally responsible, historic first step towards giving our students and teachers the resources they need. It puts money back in the classroom. And it doesn’t raise taxes. I know it sounds almost too good to be true: If this doesn’t raise taxes, how are we paying for it?

How it works

What many don’t know is that Arizona has a something called the State Land Trust – a fund with assets that have been set aside and invested for decades specifically to benefit education. This plan ensures we are managing the trust responsibly while putting the money to use for the purpose it was intended: funding our K-12 public schools.

So how does it work?

When Arizona became a state, the federal government granted our founders nearly 11 million acres of state land. Every time we sell a piece of that land, proceeds go into the Land Trust where the money is invested and earns interest. The trust has been growing rapidly in value – nearly doubling in the past five years. And now it is valued at more than $5 billion.

Currently, only 2.5 percent of the trust is distributed to schools every year. We can do better. A “yes” vote on Prop. 123 will increase the distribution rate to 6.9 percent for the next 10 years. That means we will be able to use more of this money for its intended purpose: funding our schools.

We haven’t ignored future needs

But this plan also takes into account the needs of future generations. An analysis done by the non-partisan Joint Legislative Budget Committee shows that even with the higher distributions if Prop 123 passes, there will be more than $6 billion in the Land Trust in a decade. That’s a billion dollars more in the trust after 10 years, even while we are increasing funding to education.

And let’s not forget: Arizona still has 9.2 million acres of land worth approximately $70 billion that are yet to be sold and fund the trust.

The bottom line is that passing Prop 123 ensures the long-term health of the trust, while injecting an infusion of resources into classrooms that have needs today.

When there are more kids than books

I’ve met with teachers and parents across the state, and they’ve made it clear — while reforms are important, right now they need resources to provide the excellent education all our children deserve.

Too often, I hear stories of teachers and parents spending part of their paychecks to ensure there are supplies in the classroom – even basic necessities like pens, pencils and paper. This is unacceptable.

Just a few weeks ago, I met a fourth-grade teacher named Maddy Sporbert who was volunteering for Prop. 123. She told me that she wants Prop. 123 to pass because right now she has 34 students in her class, but only 25 textbooks.

She was spending spring break — her vacation — getting out the vote for Prop. 123 to ensure her students have enough textbooks next year. She needs us to vote “yes.”

Good teachers are fleeing our state

Eighth-grade science teacher Paul Strauss told me that in his many years of teaching he’s seen countless dedicated teachers leave the profession because it is so hard to support a family on a teacher’s salary in Arizona.

We know teachers are fleeing our state or leaving the profession because of a continued lack of funding for education. Voting “yes” on Prop 123 will allow us to reverse that trend and start paying teachers what they deserve. In fact, school boards across Arizona have committed that boosting teacher salaries will be their number one priority if Prop. 123 passes.

Many districts even have two budgets: one if Prop. 123 passes, and one if it fails.

If it fails, that means more litigation and less certainty for our teachers and students.

Please join me, Mayor Greg Stanton, a bipartisan coalition of legislators, countless community and business leaders, teachers and parents in voting “yes” for Prop. 123 on May 17.

Former U.S. Congressman Frank Riggs Endorses Proposition 123

Former U.S. Congressman Frank Riggs Endorses Proposition 123

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 12, 2016

Former U.S. Congressman Frank Riggs Endorses Proposition 123

PHOENIX — Former U.S. Congressman Frank Riggs today endorsed Proposition 123 because the initiative is a conservative, innovative solution to funding our K-12 public schools.

“I think Proposition 123 is the best, conservative solution out there to providing increased, stable funding for Arizona’s K-12 public schools,” Frank Riggs, Scottsdale businessman, former U.S. Congressman and nonprofit CEO, said.  “It will put $3.5 billion into our K-12 schools without raising income taxes, money to address critical education needs, promote classroom teaching and learning, and recruit and retain talented educators.  Please join me in voting ‘YES’ on Prop 123 on May 17; it’s innovative, it’s creative and it’s exactly what we need to support our teachers, students and Arizona’s future.”

“As a former United States Congressman, member of the House Education Committee and a small business owner, Frank Riggs knows exactly the situation Arizona faces right now,”  Sharon Harper, chairman of the Let’s Vote Yes for Arizona Schools said. “He understands that we need to fund our schools and keep teachers from leaving the state to give Arizona’s kids the future they deserve. That’s why need we need to vote YES on May 17.”

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WATCH: Teachers Explain Why They Support Prop 123

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Today, we released our latest ad where teachers explain why it’s so important to support Prop 123.
If Prop 123 passes, $3.5 billion will flow into school districts across the state over the next decade.

This is all possible without raising taxes and it will provide students much-needed stability so they have every opportunity to learn, achieve and succeed.

But, these teachers and students need your help to ensure Prop 123 passes.

Please sign up to volunteer using the button below, to help spread the word about why it’s SO IMPORTANT to vote YES on May 17.

VOLUNTEER FOR PROPOSITION 123

 

VIDEO: How Does Prop 123 Work?

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Today, our first TV ad of the campaign started playing statewide. Watch it below!

It’s all about how the state land trust works, how Prop 123 utilizes the trust, and what it will do for K-12 schools.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Prop 123 puts $3.5 Billion into our classrooms without raising taxes[/pullquote]

Arizona’s teachers and students depend on us — And passing Prop 123 will provide them resources and stability for the next decade.

Watch the ad below and SHARE it with your family and friends. Then, get to the polls on May 17, and vote YES on Prop 123.

Team Prop 123