It's Day 5 of the Ducey "Next Step" Watch, which began Friday when the governor declared that Prop 123 passed. Lots has happened on the school funding front since then, but not much of it has come from Ducey.
If you remember, when he was asked what he plans as a next step after the passage of Prop 123, Ducey dodged the question, saying, “We’re going to take the rest of the day off. We’re going to celebrate a little bit.” Now we have another quote from Ducey which gives us a bit more to go on.
"We're going to keep this coalition together, from the education community to the business community to the elected leadership in our state, and we're going to talk about how we continue to improve K-12 education."
Interesting. Let's start with what's not in Ducey's statement: the words "funding" or "money." People can read whatever we want into his assertion that we should "continue to improve K-12 education," but Ducey has made it clear from his first day as governor, he doesn't want to spend a penny more from the general fund if he can help it. He's pushed to lower school funding in the two state budgets since he was elected.
As for Ducey's "coalition," it was always more of a temporary, uneasy alliance than a genuine coalition. On one side of the alliance, Ducey and his Republican cronies think Prop 123 is great. It gives a little money to schools to deflect the growing voter consensus that we need to increase funding even if it means raising taxes, and most of the money comes from the children's state land trust fund rather than the state coffers. "Maybe that'll satisfy 'em so we can get back to budget cuts and tax breaks for our rich supporters." On the other side of the alliance, some supporters of public education reluctantly joined with Ducey to get a little money for our schools sooner rather than later, knowing it's unlikely Republicans will follow the court order to replace the school funding which was taken away illegally. They hate the fact that the money comes from the state land trust fund, but they held their nose and supported Prop 123 anyway.
On Day 5, it looks like Ducey's fraying coalition has been replaced by another coalition calling itself AZ Schools Now!, and it doesn't include Ducey and his buddies.
The group held a press conference Monday saying it wants the next step to be more money for schools
beyond Prop 123, which only replaces 70 percent of what the legislature took away, and it should come from the budget surplus and maybe also from all those tax credits which have been lavished on businesses over the years. AZ Schools Now! has a long list of supporters including the Arizona Business and Education Coalition, Arizona Parent Network, Arizona PTA, Arizona School Boards Association, Arizona School Administrators and the Arizona Education Association, among others.
We've heard nothing directly from Ducey about the latest turn of events, but his press aide Daniel Scarpinato made his usual ambiguous replies to the press. He sees "a lot of options on talking about further investments in education." We can talk about finding more dollars for education by improving the tax code, he says, so long as no one pays any more taxes. And so on.
The plot thickens.