Ducey and Republican legislators have some ducking and dodging to do. According to a recent Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll, voters still want more money for our schools by a wide margin, even after the passage of Prop 123—74 percent for more money, 17 percent against and the rest undecided. Republicans, many of whom want to weaken or dismantle public education, don't want to go along. But they can't say that in the face of overwhelming public support for funding, especially just before an election.
"Let's wait 'til next year," Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said. Well, he didn't actually say that, but that's what he meant. He said he's waiting to hear
the governor's proposals for increasing education funding.
“My hope is the governor will have some proposals,” [Shooter] said. “I know they’re working on it, but I don’t know how far along they are."
Don packed a whole lot into his statement that needs to be unpacked. Even though he's a legislator—you know, one of the folks who write laws, vote on them and send them to the governor for his signature—he claims he doesn't have any ideas of his own on way to increase school funding. So he hopes the governor has some proposals. Hopes. You'd think as the Republican head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Don could walk into the governor's office and say, "Hey, Doug, what do you have in mind for education funding?" He could, of course. But then he'd have to tell the reporter what Ducey told him. It's much more convenient for Shooter to say he knows the governor is "working on it," but he doesn't know any more than that.
The reporter for the AZ Republic who wrote the story about the voter poll, Alia Beard Rau, apparently had a bit more success than Shooter talking with the governor—or actually, talking to Daniel Scarpinato, the governor's spokesman, which is supposed to be the same thing. What Rau got was this.
"The governor has been very clear on this issue since he rolled out the land-trust proposal over a year ago," Scarpinato said. "He has heard from teachers, from parents, from educators and from citizens that resources in our schools are an issue."
In fact, the governor has been very unclear, purposely, on the issue of school funding. Before the vote, Ducey said Prop 123 is a first step, but he never actually said what he thinks the next step should be and has been avoiding the issue ever since. The closest he got was on the August 10 edition of the Bill Buckmaster Show, where he tossed together a word salad filled with self congratulation for passing Prop 123—which gave the schools some of the money the legislature illegally withheld from them in every budget since 2009, mostly using money from the state land trust, not the budget—and promises that the Classrooms First committee would come up with a proposal to redistribute existing school funds, most likely to the benefit of charter schools and districts in high rent areas. His silence on the issue of new school funding was deafening.
Rau also got a "Let's wait 'til next year" from Scarpinato.
"We're going to look for other ways, particularly targeted programs that we know work," Scarpinato said. "We are in the process of developing the agenda for next session."
We're in the general election season, which is when candidates are supposed to tell us why we should vote for them. "Wait 'til next year" isn't an answer to the question, "Do you think the legislature should budget more money for schools?" Any candidates who aren't for increasing funding for education now, with 74 percent of the voters saying they want more funding, sure as hell aren't going to be for it when the pressure is off in January. Reporters should be asking candidates the question at every opportunity, and if candidates duck and dodge like Shooter and Ducey did, the question should be asked over and over until the candidate answers or it's clear they never will.