Ducey’s Empty Education Promises

Emily Kirkland#RedforEd

Teachers across the state of Arizona are rallying, protesting and speaking out on a scale that hasn’t been seen in decades. And Governor Doug Ducey and his fellow Republicans are absolutely terrified.

Last week, after massive teacher-led walk-ins across the state, Governor Ducey spoke at a hastily-arranged press conference and told Arizona teachers that they’d be getting a 9{28335ed37dd724deee500aa029442e0d9d58206d63320e844ba7e9fe720a29c1} raise this year and a 20{28335ed37dd724deee500aa029442e0d9d58206d63320e844ba7e9fe720a29c1} raise in the next three years. Quite an about-face from the same governor who dismissed Red for Ed as a “political circus” just a few days before!

But although Ducey’s announcement may have helped his re-election campaign, it falls far short of solving Arizona’s education crisis. The plan doesn’t provide the funding needed to repair crumbling buildings (some of them infested with snakes and roaches) or replace decades-old books. Arizona is near the bottom of the list nationally for per-pupil funding, and Ducey’s plan won’t change that. What’s more, many school personnel, including counselors, nurses, janitors, and food service workers, are left out of the plan, even though their pay is also abysmal.

And Ducey knows perfectly well that he won’t be able to follow through even on the promises he’s already made. He’s paying for raises this year by raiding money from universities, services for people with disabilities, and other critical state programs, many of which have already been cut to the bone. And his promised raises for next year rely on the whims of the legislature and on implausible projections for economic growth.

Arizona has walked this path before, like in the early 2000s, when rosy promises from Arizona politicians about education evaporated, leaving schools in deep financial trouble. The truth is that after years of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, there simply isn’t enough money to fund education at the level it needs to be funded. To actually solve this problem in a long-term, sustainable way, we need to ask the rich to pay their fair share – just as other states have done.

Ducey spent years all but ignoring Arizona’s education crisis. But now teachers are speaking up en masse, and Ducey’s feeling the heat. He’s trying any trick he can to make the pressure go away. We can’t afford to fall for it.

With teachers across the state voting on a possible strike, this is the moment to stand united. We have a tremendous opportunity in front of us. Let’s not let it slip through our fingers for the sake of a few empty promises.