Ducey can spin his budget priorities however he wants in his pronouncements, but a budget is a moral document. It indicates what you value. And Ducey, contrary to his pronouncements, does not value education, or children in general, especially poor children.
Lots of ink and pixels have been spilled talking about Ducey's proposed budget, its priorities and deceptions. I'm going to narrow-focus on his statements about K-12 education versus his actual budget proposals, but there's so much more to look at. Howard Fischer gave us a sense of the whole budget picture
in his opening paragraph about the budget plan Saturday:
Gov. Doug Ducey proposes to restore less than 10 percent of what was cut last year from state universities, give the Department of Child Safety just two-thirds of what it requested, but add another 2,000 beds to house inmates.
Today, Fischer notes that Ducey has decided
to "ignore what, for the moment, is free money from the federal government to provide care to more of the children of the working poor." If you're turning down free money from the Feds for children's health, knowing you can cancel the program in the future if you think it's costing the state too much money, that speaks volumes.
But back to K-12 education. Let's look at how Ducey described that part of his budget in his op ed published Friday
, the same day he released his budget proposal. First statement:
On Friday, I announced an additional $106 million for K-12 education – that is on top of the $224 million supplemental for fiscal year 2016, which was part of our $3.5 billion funding package.
Question: When is additional education money not additional education money? Answer: When it's a mandatory increase based on inflation and the increase in our student population. That accounts for $47 million of the $106 million. Almost half of Ducey's "additional" money is really stay-even money.
Here's another statement from the op ed.
But not every child plans to go to college – their K-12 experience also needs to prepare them for life. Which is why we’re targeting high-need employment sectors with a new, $30 million investment in career and technical education.
A "new, $30 million investment"? It's hardly new, when that's exactly the amount Ducey and his legislative enablers cut from JTED (Joint Technical Education District) programs last year. So it would be slightly more accurate to call it a restoration of funds—except that would be wrong too. The "new, $30 million investment" is actually $10 million a year spread over three years, and instead of restoring the money to existing JTED programs, it's a matching funds grant for programs sponsored by businesses to train people for jobs the businesses think they need. The general consensus is, if the cut JTED funds aren't restored, the program will die.
And then there's his plan to shift some of our already-meager education funding toward schools with high income students.
[U]nder our plan, schools that produce students who successfully complete AP-level, college-prep courses will be rewarded with more dollars.
Privileged kids from high income families takes lots of academically challenging AP courses already, because that's what they do. Far fewer kids from low income families take the courses. This isn't about who's smarter. It's not about which schools are trying harder to give their students a good education. It's about which kids have the educational advantages that correlate directly with higher income and result in higher levels of academic achievement. It's about which kids have college educated parents who expect their children to follow in their footsteps. So the financial reward Ducey is talking about will flow to the richer school districts for doing nothing more than what they're doing right now. And if those districts push more kids into AP courses, whether they're ready for them or not, they could get even more.
To be fair, Ducey adds a footnote to the plan.
Schools in low-income areas, where educators and students face added challenges, will receive an even greater boost for helping kids beat the odds.
Most likely — the plan hasn't been released yet — Ducey wants to give a little more AP reward dollars per student in schools with low income kids. Almost certainly, even with a heroic push from the teachers and administration in those schools, that won't add up to the nearly the amount that will flow towards high income kids without their schools expending any extra energy. Why do I think that's what will happen with his not-yet-released plan? Because Gov. Brewer's earlier push to reward schools for achievement was heavily skewed toward schools in high rent districts, and it's almost certain Ducey is pushing the same old plan in a new pair of clothes.
Whenever Ducey talks about his commitment to education, people in the immediate vicinity should shout, "Bullshit!" For people who don't like swearing in public, shout, "Deadbeat!" And for those who prefer tweeting to shouting, use the #deadbeat hashtag to comment on Ducey's anti-education, anti-children agenda on Twitter.