Monday as I waited for Doug Ducey's State of the State Address, I wrote a post predicting what he would say
about education. I guessed he would speak in glittering generalities about the importance of education, and that he would promise more funding without talking dollars and cents. And I guessed he would ask us "to dream the impossible dream of raising teacher salaries, spending more money on educational supplies, fixing our crumbling schools and replacing our old buses without raising taxes."
It didn't take a soothsayer or an entrail reader to get that one right. It's what he always says.
Don Quixote, who sang about dreaming the impossible dream in a musical based on the great 17th century novel, had gone mad from reading too many stories about knights and chivalry. He put on a suit of dented armor and rode forth, determined to right the wrongs of the world. He honestly thought a peasant woman was a princess under the spell of a wicked enchanter. He believed with all his heart that windmills were evil giants he could joust against and defeat while riding on the worn-out nag he thought was a noble steed. He believed in his own beautiful folly. His audience has spent five centuries laughing at him and crying with him, wishing they could believe as well.
Governor, I read Don Quixote
. I knew Don Quixote literarily and think of him as a friend of mine. Governor, you're no Don Quixote.
Ducey isn't deluded. He knows his promise to add significant education funding to the state budget is a con job, because there's not enough money in the budget for a serious increase, and he has pledged to the state's businesses and wealthiest individuals — and to his greatest benefactors, the Koch Brothers — that he would only lower taxes, never raise them. His only mention of taxes in the address was an increased exemption for military retirement pay.
Ducey spoke of holding the line on prison spending, then said,
"Let’s spend these dollars – tens of millions of dollars combined – where they can go to better use: In our public schools and for our teachers."
Some simple math. We have about a million K-12 students in Arizona. "Tens of millions of dollars" translates to tens of dollars per student. In a 30 student classroom, that comes to $300 a year. Ducey knows it. Everyone who understands the size of the education budget knows it. But Ducey hopes he can con potential voters into thinking he promised something real.
The next line in his address is:
"But before we talk dollars and cents – let’s address something."
Ducey's "before" extended all the way to the end of his address, because he never talked dollars and cents. However, he did promise to release his budget by the end of the week. Then we should get a few details.
If his budget doesn't include a substantial hike in education funding, enough to add thousands of dollars to the salaries of the nation's worst paid teachers and money to replace and replenish dwindling educational supplies and out-of-date equipment, then all Ducey's talk about increasing funding is so much smoke and mirrors.
Governor, you're no Don Quixote. You're one of the wrongs of the world Don Quixote was trying to right.