Choose to remain cautiously hopeful, because failure is not an option

By Linda Lyon, President, ASBA Board of Directors

It is clearly evident that fed-up teachers and public education advocates have forced Governor Ducey and the state Legislature to address inadequate teacher salaries and the need for District Additional Assistance restoration. The governor’s plan to increase teacher salaries meets the 20 percent demand from teachers and begins to restore severe cuts to capital funding.

There is, of course, much consternation about how this “sausage” was made. Truth is, discussions between education advocacy organizations have long been underway about the best strategy to fight for teacher salary increases and other funding our dis-tricts desperately need. Then last Thursday, in an independent effort, nine GOP legis-lators collaborated to devise their own plan. It included a 6 percent pay raise next year, with an increase for five years to a total of 24 percent that would have allegedly been funded by a reallocation of education monies. When Governor Ducey got wind of the effort later that same day, he called in the legislators, along with several education ad-vocacy organizations, to discuss a different solution.

The plan Governor Ducey announced is $274 million in new education funds for FY 2019 dedicated solely to the teacher base level (so that it becomes permanent funding our districts and their teachers can count on) and $100 million for restoring district additional assistance that can be used for capital needs plus inflation. It does not specifically address increases for support staff, but with the state covering a 10 percent raise for certified classroom teachers, many districts should have additional resources to award raises to certified specialists and support staff at local discretion. This is important, because you know best what your district needs are.

This year, your teachers will get percent to augment the 1 percent they already re-ceived. In subsequent years, the funds would be distributed as follows:
FY2020: $152 million for teachers, $68 million for capital plus inflation
FY2021: $152 million for teachers, $68 million for capital plus inflation
FY2022: $68 million for capital

The real question I’m hearing from many of you is where will the funding for this come from? Like me, you are worried about what other important programs will be impacted. I felt better today, when we received an update from the governor’s office indicating that the proposed 10 percent raise will be given to ALL classroom teachers in FY2019 without cutting services in important social programs such as AHCCCS.

Yes, I know there is much yet to be worked out and ASBA is in the forefront doing just that. I also know the proposed solution is far from adequate as it still won’t restore our districts to 2008 funding and doesn’t provide sufficient funding to adequately compensate support staff or take care of our crumbling facilities and replace capital equipment.

But, it is a big step in the right direction and we should, as our partners AZ PTA, AASBO and ASA have all said, “declare a win, a win” and take credit for the effective work we’ve all done to move the governor to this point and continue to hold him and the legislature accountable!

I recognize there are many who don’t think the solution goes far enough, particularly because there is no truly “new” revenue and can’t say I disagree. Effective governance though, doesn’t result in a winner takes all situation, but rather, a compromise that ensures the best possible solution, and hopefully gives most people at least some of what they want.

When this plan is passed into legislation, I will be proud of our association achieving victory on three of the important items from our member-approved 2018 Legislative Agenda which was created by all of you, our members:

  1. Provide additional state funding for nationally competitive salaries to attract, recruit and retain talented teachers;
  2. Restore district additional assistance (DAA) reductions; and
  3. Maximize local control and flexibility in managing funds and programs.

I am already proud of our work that helped provide for the “Renewal of Prop. 301,” an-other of our legislative agenda items. And, thanks to the work of SOS AZ with some financial help from Friends of ASBA, we may also achieve success on the agenda item to “Repeal any program that gives public funds for private schools, ESAs & STOs or prevent any future expansion.” We will continue this initiative on behalf of all of you.

Even though I believe we may have largely “won” this battle, the overall war rages on and we cannot yet put away our pens, our signs and our voices. There is much left to fight for and although, Governor Ducey has made higher state revenue, the rearranging of his budget priorities and lower state agency caseloads sound like viable funding streams, we are right to be suspicious of exactly where from, sustainable funding will come.

As the saying goes, the “devil is in the details.” We must all demand those details from the governor and the legislature and keep the pressure on to deliver what our teachers and students deserve. We must also ensure our entire education community continues to work together versus allowing a wedge to be driven between us. This is important because even though we may have some different ideas on how to deliver for our districts, we all want more opportunity and better academic results for ALL our students.

In the end, the only thing that will ensure our state works toward that goal is the elec-tion of more pro-public education candidates. We don’t need to as the Chicago saying goes, “vote early and often,” but we do need to vote wisely. It is beyond time for Arizo-na voters to draw the nexus between the results they want, and the candidates they elect. I choose to remain cautiously hopeful, because failure is simply not an option.