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  • Prop 123 and The Arizona Republic, getting it right for Arizona’s classrooms

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    It’s time to launch a new venture for ABEC, “The Foreman Forecast.” We’ll keep a “weather eye on the horizon” to see what the trends are and attempt to provide the forecast ahead on major issues affecting business and education in Arizona. So, what shall we enter into our logs for Proposition 123? Support or oppose? Stormy or calm seas ahead?

    While I don’t offer any gale warnings as imminent, I would have to say, “Perhaps later.” Pressure systems are moving quickly and the policy barometer is falling. There is something going on out there and it is unsettling to many.

    While forecasts can be tricky affairs, the The Arizona Republic Editorial Board got it exactly right in their April 19th editorial. Here’s why I think they got it just right, and why the ABEC Board thinks so, too.

    The Arizona Republic: “If Prop. 123 fails, you can bet on this, the prospects for increased school funding would be slim to none.”
    Prop. 123 addresses the settlement of the inflation lawsuit and has the approval of the federal judge presiding over the proceedings. That’s a sure thing. Everything else is speculation; but a near certainly is that if Prop. 123 fails, the likelihood of a legislative reaction that results in a massive infusion of cash in to our schools has little probability. ABEC believes that gambling with our classroom resources to such an unpredictable future is unacceptable.

    The Arizona Republic: “Prop. 123 isn’t a bad deal—it’s a good start.”
    Yes, an approved Prop. 123 does indeed increase education spending by about $350 million per year for ten years, or just north of $300 per student per year. Yes, the Arizona State Land Trust is primarily devoted to benefit public education. Yes, the Trust has significantly underperformed in the past, failing to properly support students and, in effect, contributing to the stagnant funding spectacle that has become Arizona’s public education funding system. So, let’s see. That is correct, correct and correct.

    The Arizona Republic: “Vote yes AND hold Ducey accountable.”
    Nearly all of Arizona’s major education groups support Prop. 123 as does virtually all of Arizona’s premier business community. But then comes the ace-kicker: passage of Prop. 123 happens with the full expectation that Governor Ducey will pursue additional funding for our schools and that Prop. 123 supporters must “demand it in no uncertain terms.” This is the condition that turns Prop. 123 into a first step, not a final solution, and is the eye of the storm in otherwise gale force winds.

    So given that, why the rough seas from some significant and important voices? The questions raised by State Treasurer Jeff DeWit, for example, merit review. It could be that if Treasurer DeWit is correct, a federal judge may well intervene again over the issue of the State of Arizona Enabling Act restrictions on expending money from the Trust in excess of the annual earnings; validating the unconstitutional dipping into the corpus argument. 

    But wait, there’s more.  Others argue that this is a bailout for Governor Ducey and an unacceptable concession to a state legislature which refuses to fund our schools. So, to punish them for not going far enough, they will vote NO on Prop. 123 to create pressure in the November elections to toss the bums out and elect some pro education Members who will. Wow. Now that’s a tepid forecast based on a licked finger held low, at best.
    More importantly to ABEC, these strategies accept the risk of further degradation of the Arizona classroom as a consequence of Prop. 123’s failure. That ship won’t sail for ABEC.

    In any case, thinking that conservative right, independent or progressive left candidates will emerge victorious in their positions such that it will affect the next election based on the failure of Prop. 123 is folly.

    The ballot box is not going to be very responsive because non-competitive districts are the rule, not the exception, and that rule isn’t changing.

    Let’s deal with some reality here, not uncertain forecasts for sea changes so unlikely.

    The Arizona Republic concluded: “Voters should approve the May 17 (Proposition 123) school-funding initiative—but with tough expectations for Arizona’s governor.”

    The ABEC Board and statewide members agree. Passage of Proposition 123 won’t assure smooth sailing for classroom funding, but failure will guarantee treacherous seas ahead for Arizona’s school children, and that is not an acceptable result.

    Dick Foreman is the president and CEO of ABEC, the Arizona Business and Education Coalition.  To contact, please send him an e-mail or leave a comment below.
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