Proposition 204 isn’t the answer to better funding the state’s education system, according to Arizona Treasurer Doug Ducey.
In fact, Ducey says the Education and Jobs Act, which is another devisive issue between Republicans and Democrats, comes with no real reform or accountability whatsoever.
Originated as a continuation of Arizona’s temporary one-cent sales tax from 2010, Prop 204 would make the tax permanent. Supporters of the bill believe the tax will put Arizona’s education system on pace with the rest of the country, while those opposed say not only will the tax not solely benefit education, it will further hurt the economy.
“Proposition 204 is a $1 million permanent sales tax increase, and will make Arizona the second highest sales tax state in the country,” said Ducey. “It will have a devastating long-term effect to our economy. It’s being sold as an education bill, but really it’s a special interest bill.”
Ducey said the bill has a $1 billion annual carve-out for road contractors, who paid for the signatures to put the proposition on the ballot.
However, that’s not the only detail that bothers Ducey about the proposition.
“There is nothing that says it has to be used in the classroom, or with teachers,” said Ducey. “To me, that’s the greatest concern with it, is it would go to fund a bigger bureaucracy, additional administration, and dollars would be lost and soaked up in overhead, and I think most people would agree that education results happen inside the classroom, with a committed teacher, inside schools with principals demonstrating leadership. None of that is written in the bill.”
While supporters of the bill say the opposed are anti-education, Ducey argues the bill is simply the continuation of a failing strategy.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over thinking you will get different results,” he said. “One thing we can agree on is we want to get improved results out of K-12 education, so why would we increase the amount of money we are putting in into formulas we know are failing students and teachers today? The real opportunity is to reform K-12 education, to tie dollars directly to reforms, and to measure results. Proposition 204 doesn’t do that, and that’s why people that care about education and want to do what is right for children can safely vote against it.”
Ducey, the former Chief Executive Officer of Coldstone Creamery, is serving his first term in office after selling the company in 2007. He said in the last few years, Arizona has made positive steps forward in fiscal recovery, but that something such as Prop 204 would only be counterproductive to that process.
“Our circumstances have changed dramatically in the state in the last couple of years from a financial perspective,” he said. “We’ve balanced our budget, we’re on firm financial footing, we have over a billion dollars in our operating account, we have $450 million in a reserve account earning interest, and this was the state that was most financially devastated three years ago, the largest budget gap in the country per capita. The worst thing we could do right now is do something that is a California-style reform that takes money away from citizens in an already hurting economy and doesn’t improve education along the way.”
As with many Democrats, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is one who disagrees with Ducey’s take. Today, she and husband Mark Kelly acknowledged their support for the bill.
“Gabby and I believe that the quality of our education system affects every aspect of our community,” said Kelly. “Over the last decade, the U.S. continues to fall farther behind in education, especially STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. We support Proposition 204 to make sure that Arizona schools receive the necessary funding to properly educate our next generation.”
Ann-Eve Pedersen, a Tucson volunteer who chairs the “Yes on 204” campaign, expressed gratitude toward Giffords and Kelly.
“Gabby and Mark are exactly right, we don’t want our kids to fall further behind the rest of the world in science, technology, engineering and math, but that is what will happen if we don’t pass Proposition 204,” Pedersen said. “Proposition 204 does not raise our taxes, but our schools face new budget shortfalls, more cuts, higher class sizes and even closures in some districts, if the penny sales tax expires and we have no safeguards preventing the Legislature from continuing to cut education funding. To achieve excellence in education and attract good-paying jobs to Arizona, we must make a basic investment in our children so they can achieve their potential and we can ensure they are ready to compete in a global economy.”
Ducey though, believes there are still better options to the proposition, citing one example in Proposition 118.
“If there are ten things that need to be fixed in education, Proposition 118 fixes one of them. Proposition 204 fixes none of them,” said Ducey.
Authored out of the State Treasurer’s office, the bill, according to Ducey “will better fund K-12 education by fixing a flawed formula,” providing reliable, consistent, annual contributions to K-12 without any additional taxes and without any additional general fund spending.
“What Proposition 118 does is simplify a formula that takes dollars from the permanent land endowment trust fund, and distributes that to K-12 beneficiaries.”
Ducey further argued that former supporters of the temporary one-cent sales tax have since spoken out against Prop 204. This includes Gov. Jan Brewer, along with many chambers, who Ducey says do not believe the proposition will affect outcomes in classrooms.