By Jim Eaton, Sedona Resident
(April 21, 2016)
Yes, Arizona needs better education. It’s shameful how low we rank. But Proposition 123 is not the way to do it. Better efficiency, pay teachers more and administrative brass less. A very bad idea would be selling off State lands for private development to fund education. This would lose valuable open space forever, just for a short-term gain that can’t be recovered. Thousands of square miles of wild and scenic lands are being eyed by profit-seeking developers, to build more rooftops to attract more and more new residents. When those State lands are gone, what’s next?
Will these new people bring their own water? Will they clog our streets and roads even more with traffic? Future generations will not honor us for leaving them a crowded state rife with fights over vanishing drops of water, devoid of elbow room, and air more polluted with exhaust fumes and methane. They will not see the dark night skies full of stars, nor hike in the beautiful lands that nature gave us.
There are much better ways to fund education — permanent solutions such as reforming the tax codes, and assuring that all — individuals and corporations — pay their fair share of taxes. Equipping students for better jobs that don’t require everlasting public support.
You Arizona State legislators, don’t be so stingy. Most Arizonans can afford to pay our fair share for what we need — but we’ll watch how you spend it. Don’t let our students become as dumb as some of you apparently are!
Let’s take a good look at the prospects of “growth” — that concept so touted by those with self interests. Rather, let this thought guide us: “Great is the person who plants a tree, knowing that he will never sit in its shade.
You need to research the purpose and use of the Trust Land. Best way to fund education is to get legislators in office who care about education for our kids. This is a lose lose situation.
Kicking the can down the road so politicians can pat themselves on the back is typical. When you starve the beast, maybe the beast has to go on a diet. Restructuring of our educational system in this state is long overdue. When we have micro school districts that requires management and staff for each district, teachers and classrooms suffer.
In Sedona, we had an override fight, and lost. Where is all the extra money going especially with falling school attendance? Where is the restructuring of SPAC? Just more and more money is being ripped from taxpayers and money alone does NOT fix the problem, or it would have been fixed already.
You also do not SPEND principal and expect interest to stay the same. That is BEYOND STUPID, and INTEREST is our future revenue to support education.
Let’s also have a reality check here. Arizona, like all the states WEST of the Rocky Mountains has HUGE federal ownership. Arizona is around 49%. The feds pay us $.62 an acre annually as the state cannot access the land for multi-use purposes. The AVERAGE per acre property tax in Arizona is $50 an acre. $1.3 BILLION is LOST Arizona EVERY year. What could we do with those dollars?
However states EAST of the Rockies have no such limitations, and they have beautiful monuments, huge recreation areas and other protected lands. And THOSE states had the same problem in 1850 that WE have today, except the “western states” were Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. They all turned out pretty well and THEY also had to fight the Feds.
The analysis below is form our State Treasurer:
Why I am voting NO on Prop 123.
Proposition 123 is LESS money for schools and RAISES PROPERTY TAXES
I wish I could support Proposition 123. I wish it was in the best interest of our schools, teachers, and taxpayers. I wish it lived up to the claim of being “more money for schools without raising taxes.” Unfortunately it is none of these things.
Anytime politicians tell you they have found a way to spend money without raising taxes, they are either raising debt or raiding a trust fund. It is why our federal government owes $19 Trillion and our Social Security Trust Fund is depleted. Our federal government has made false promises, and Arizona is now following suit.
Proposition 123 is a raid on the Schools’ Permanent Endowment Trust Fund which was established by Congress at Arizona’s statehood. It is a pool of money intended to grow for the benefit of educating Arizona schoolchildren forever. We can spend interest, but we are never to spend principle, as this plan does in a BIG way. Proposition 123 violates this Congressional requirement, and if passed, a new multi-year lawsuit will likely begin, further delaying funding for our schools.
The politicians are saying that this Trust is “underperforming our schools.” This is incorrect. The amount we spend on schools from the Trust is now the highest in Arizona history, roughly $100 million a year, and should double about every seven years. Voting NO on Proposition 123 keeps this money for its intended purpose, benefiting our schools forever. Saying yes cuts the trust fund by over a third, costs our schools (and ultimately our taxpayers) Billions of dollars, keeps teacher pay at 50th in the country, raises property taxes, and creates a huge fiscal cliff in ten years that will hit hardworking taxpayers.
Let me say part of that again. Right now Arizona is 50th in the country in teacher pay. If Prop 123 passes, and the trust fund is raided, and when property taxes increase, we will still be 50th in the country in teacher pay! As the Arizona Republic has pointed out, this is merely a “scam” on the voters to make them think that this is free money, when in reality it comes at a very high price to our children, teachers, and taxpayers. Read here: http://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/ej-montini/2016/04/18/montini-gov-doug-ducey-league-of-women-voters-proposition-123-arizona-legislature-state-land-trust/83157214/
The public is also being told that Prop 123 is “more money for teachers.” Anyone that reads the language of this bill know this is not true, and their claim was also ‘fact-checked’ by the Republic recently and given ZERO stars and rated “False.” (http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/fact-check/2016/03/05/fact-check-no-requirement-prop-123-money-go-directly-classrooms/80990218/) Prop 123 does the opposite, it is purposefully written to make it possible for the money to go to administrative raises without a single dollar going to a teacher or classroom.
And a dirty little secret of Prop 123 is that it will also increase Trust fund payouts to the State Hospital and State Prisons, among other non-school related spending increases.
Bottom Line: Proposition 123 is LESS money for schools, and RAISES property taxes (see AZ Republic November 18th, 2015). It is shameful that the proponents are misleadingly telling the public otherwise. Quite frankly, if the Yes on 123 campaign was a business instead of a political campaign it would be guilty of fraudulent advertising. It seems to be an unfortunate rule of thumb in today’s political world that since the politicians supporting Prop 123 will be out of office in eight years or less, they care little that when this plan expires in ten years our school finances will be a mess and taxpayers will foot a huge bill.
Before being elected as Treasurer, I had never run for office. Like many, I was frustrated with the poor financial decisions being made on our behalf, and took a huge pay cut to help our government make smarter decisions with taxpayer money.
We can do better. We can solve the inflation funding lawsuit without raiding the Trust, provide higher pay to teachers, and save taxpayers from a huge fiscal cliff. But the only way Arizona gets there is by voting NO on 123, as I will be doing.
State Treasurer of Arizona
Prop 123 has NOTHING to do with the sale of State Trust lands. The proposition deals solely with the Permanent fund created from over 100 years of sales and leases of land. This fund currently has 5 BILLION dollars on deposit. Even with 10 years of increases payouts the fund will still have 5 BILLION dollars due to interest earned, etc.
Prop 123 is the settlement of a lawsuit overy monies illegally witheld from schools since 2010. It is not a plan to properly fund schools but rather to repair some of the damage caused by the largest cuts to public education of any state in the U.S.
Those of us in the education community who have been following this lawsuit know that 123 is not an ideal settlement of the lawsuit. We know that there were options that the defendants, the Republican legislative leadership, could have agreed to including spending the surplus. We also know that the Republican Legislative Leadership refused to consider raising taxes or spending the rainy day fund– because they believed they owed nothing to the schools.
If you vote NO on this proposition to send a message that the surplus should be used or because the Legislature should be punished for breaking the law condider this–NO ONE can force the Legislature to write a check to the schools the courts can not do this, the Governor can not donthis and the Treasurer definitely has no power over the Legislature.
AZ schools deserve money now. The current legislature is not going to repay these funds in any other way. If Prop 123 passes schools will receive this money without any strings attached. Each locally elected school board will decide how to spend these funds. Most districts have announced that the plan to use the funds for teacher salaries. School Boards are the most transparent government entity, Budgets are public, meetings are public and if a district seeds money in a way the public does not like it can not be hidden, there are 2 or 3 members of every school board in AZ up for election this November.
We need to pass 123 for all the students and teachers in AZ. AND then for real sustained change work to change the Legislature and elect members from both parties who truly believe in public education and will put education first.