Ah, for the good old days when Arizona was a liberal state. According to a 1940 Arizona guide book:
"Along political and economic lines, a great majority of Arizona people are liberal minded almost to the 'try anything once' point."
Those Arizonans of yesteryear were even developing an environmental bent, at least from a 1940s perspective.
"There is considerable evidence that earlier tendencies to exploit natural resources, to take all that could be taken and move on, are being tempered."
And when it came to education, they spared no expense.
“One direction [Arizona’s] liberalism takes is toward provisions for popular education that might seem almost extravagant, considering population and taxable wealth. Arizona people insist that Arizona schools be of the best, regardless of cost. Parents who never went beyond the grammar grades are determined that their children shall have university diplomas. Arizonans are generous in providing libraries, recreational facilities, especially anything that promises to help children enjoy childhood and become better equipped to meet the battles of later life."
"Generous." "Extravagant." "Regardless of cost." Be still, my beating heart!
So what happened to reverse the "almost extravagant" spending on our children and their educations, and when did it happen? The graph below, created from information in a 2009 study of educational spending put together by the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, gives us a clue.
The "100%" line across the center of the graph is the national average for per student spending from 1966 to 2006. In 1966, Arizona was spending nearly 10 percent above the national average. By 2006, we were almost 25 percent below the national average. What happened?
Arizona's state legislature was dominated by Democrats until 1966 when the Republicans gained a majority in both houses. That's when our spending relative to other states began to plummet. In six years, we went from above the national average to dead even. Three years later, in 1975, we were 10 percent below average.
In the four years after 1975, the line turned upwards again, bringing us nearly even with the national average. That was when, for the first time since 1966, Democrats had a majority in the State Senate, (the House was still Republican) and the Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General were all Democrats as well. It was the last time the Democrats controlled that much of state government.
The line moved up and down until 1987. After that, it started a regular descent until 2006, which is where the study's information ends. As we know, the descent, and Republican dominance in state government, continued.