They’re at it again. You would think that public school districts would learn their lesson at some point. After all, many of them turned their backs on students and parents in the wake of COVID-19. And now, those school districts are paying the price.
But apparently, they’re too committed to their agenda.
Some school districts are ignoring the science and keeping their beloved mask mandates. Some would rather keep parents in the dark about classroom curriculum. While others are trying to adopt Marxist Critical Race Theory programs in their schools.
The latest culprit is Litchfield Elementary School District, where the school board recently published an “equity statement” along with a set of “equity goals.” The goals were presented at the school board meeting in March and crafted by, you guessed it, a “district diversity committee.”
If you’re unfamiliar with Critical Race Theory, it’s a movement that combines Marxist theories of class conflict within the lens of race. And it teaches that racism is present in every interaction. Races that have been “minoritized” are considered oppressed while those who are “racially privileged” are called “exploiters.” Proponents of the movement are good at disguising it. As Christopher Rufo from the Manhattan Institute points out, you’ll often find Critical Race Theory is present when you hear terms like “social justice,” “diversity,” “inclusion,” and “equity.”
A group of conservative students at Arizona State University was smeared in an online social media campaign, targeted with doctored images and false claims.
According to documents obtained exclusively through YAF’s Campus Bias Tip Line, a current representative in ASU’s student government, Daniel Lopez, reportedly helped create an Instagram page titled “Don’t Vote For These-USG!” intended to intimidate conservative students running for USG positions, and sway the results of the election.
How Phoenix Mayor “Queen Kate” Gallego mismanaged (and exploited) the COVID-19 pandemic.
As normal life returns and Americans look back at the past year with clear eyes, it’s almost difficult to believe the actions that some local officials took to undermine their constituents’ recovery efforts.
Bill de Blasio at the gym. Muriel Bowser at a Delaware campaign event. Eric Garcetti’s threat to shut off water to families who invite private guests into their own homes. We remember these names. Throughout the country, though, local mayors outside of the spotlight followed similar paths, privately dismissing the gravity of COVID-19 while publicly leveraging ‘pandemic porn’ in order to advance political goals—and nowhere was that mismanagement (and personal exploitation) more prevalent, or less covered, than in the U.S.’s fifth-largest city.
There is a reason Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, who presided over a coronavirus hotspot in 2020, glossed over the pandemic during her second inaugural speech last Monday.
Gallego—née Widland, prior to her marriage to her now ex-husband, Congressman Ruben Gallego—always had her eyes on this prize. After working for the state party in her 20s, the Democrat’s career followed the trajectory of Peter’s Principle, by which people inadvertently are promoted to their level of incompetence. Gallego’s allies ushered her into various political positions for which she was little-qualified until finding a sweet spot: a safe-blue district on the Phoenix City Council, set to the backdrop of a low-turnout, odd-numbered-year election.
The Arizona state coffers are running over with cash. The state is set to receive $12B in federal recovery funds, more than the entire annual state budget. On top of that, forecasting by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee projects by 2024 the state will have a $6.4B cash balance with $1.5B in ongoing revenues. Republicans in the Legislature and Governor Ducey are looking to return the record high, multi-billion-dollar state surplus to taxpayers by passing major tax cuts.
On the front lines to defeat these efforts—the cities—that are claiming major income tax reductions will significantly impact their bottom line. But it isn’t just the state sitting comfortably on a mountain of cash, the cities are too.
In opposing the proposed tax cuts, cities are arguing that the package will result in a $225 million decrease in their shared revenue from income tax collections. Despite this estimate being seriously flawed, their projections are in reality insignificant.
Based on research from the Arizona Tax Research Association, we’ll look at 4 cities—urban, rural, small, and large—comparing their estimated “cut” from the tax package to their cash balances and scored against additional revenues generated from the 2019 Wayfair legislation, which permanently expanded the cities’ tax base.
The city of Chandler has a budget of just under $317 million in general fund expenditures for FY2021, leaving nearly $135 million in the general fund.
So far in FY2021, the city has collected close to $3.6 million in new, local TPT revenue and $1.2 million in state shared TPT collections by remote sellers. Taking the average from the 8 months of collections so far in FY2021, this would result in just over $7 million annually.
The estimate of Chandler’s decrease in shared revenue? Just over $10 million.
With a cash balance of $135 million, $7 million in new revenue from Wayfair, Prop 207 revenue, and nearly $36 million in Covid cash from the latest package, residents of Chandler need not worry about their city providing a high level of service.
Their estimated “cut” represents a 0.67% decrease in Chandler’s general fund when scored against new ongoing tax revenues.
The city of Flagstaff budgeted $81.7 million in general fund expenditures for FY2021, leaving the city with a cash balance of over $33 million.
From Wayfair, Flagstaff has already collected $1.3 million from remote sellers and their estimated state share is $340,000. Averaged out this is just under $2.5 million in new annual revenue. Flagstaff has also received $15.2 million in new Covid cash.
The estimated “cut” from income tax reductions? $2.9 million. This represents a mere 0.36% decrease in the general fund when scored against new ongoing tax revenues…
The Arizona state General Fund is flooded with revenue. Latest projections show the state with $1.2 billion in ongoing revenue and a cash balance upwards of $6.5 billion in FY2024. This is by far the largest budget surplus in state history and doesn’t even include the $1 Billion stashed away in the rainy day fund.
When the state is sitting on a pile of cash this big, it means one thing: they are taking too much of your money. And the answer is simple: give it back to taxpayers.
With Republicans at the Legislature and Governor Ducey planning to provide a large and comprehensive tax cut, one special interest group is already lobbying hard behind the scenes to kill that plan: local cities.
The fight of course is over money. 15 percent of income tax revenues are shared with cities. In Phoenix, that accounts for just over $241 million this year, or roughly 4.8 percent of their $5 billion operating budget. Phoenix is arguing that the proposed income tax cut would result in a $65 million reduction in shared revenues; or 1.3 percent of their operating budget.
Of course, this estimated “cut” in revenue is seriously flawed. It fails to take into account that shared revenues from the income tax are based on collections from two years prior. Considering the tax package wouldn’t be fully implemented for another 4-5 years, any potential decrease in shared revenues would not be fully realized for at least 6-7.
Additionally, complaints about static reductions in revenue fail to include any dynamic analysis of economic growth and the corresponding increases in tax revenues, both from income and TPT collections, promulgated by tax cuts.
The passage of Prop 208 made Arizona the 9th highest income tax rate in the nation. It has already begun pushing small businesses to relocate to lower tax states, taking their jobs and income, property, and TPT tax revenues with them. Make no mistake, the loss in revenue for cities such as Phoenix will be much larger if no action is taken to address Arizona’s uncompetitive income tax climate. In fact, a study by the Goldwater Institute found that the Prop 208 price tag to state and local revenues will amount to a $2.4 billion loss.
Knowing that a debate over a potential 1.3% reduction in revenues 7 years from now won’t generate much sympathy to stop the tax package, the city of Phoenix has decided to tell lawmakers that if the legislature cuts your income taxes, cities will be forced to cut police officers on the street. In other words, legislative tax cuts would be responsible for “defunding the police.”
This rhetoric can’t be described as anything other than complete hogwash.
Here is the real bottom line: The City of Phoenix is downright reckless with taxpayer money. The city spends like drunken sailors. They’ve never seen a tax increase they don’t like. And they don’t think twice about fleecing the taxpayer every opportunity they get.
For years Phoenix ran a hotel that never managed to make a profit. In 2017 they finally shed the asset, but not before a staggering $200 Million loss to taxpayers.
All this reckless spending has forced the city to constantly raise taxes and fees. Just last month, Phoenix approved raising their water rates for the 5th time in 6 years on top of rate increases for trash and recycling.
On top of these tax and rate increases, research done by the Arizona Tax Research Association shows the city has also received over $24.6 million year to date in FY2021 (with four additional months of collections to go) from remote sellers. This is new revenue to the city due to the passage of 2019 Wayfair legislation. If these new monies were scored, that 1.3 percent revenue loss would actually be a potential 0.8% reduction realized in 6-7 years, a fraction of the money Phoenix has wasted in just the past couple years.
With tax increase after tax increase and revenue windfalls from the state, the city of Phoenix does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. The legislature providing relief to taxpayers (who will surely be more responsible with their own money than Phoenix will be) will not cause any city to “defund the police.”
The Arizona legislature failed this year to pass a bill that would have required third grade students to be held back if they failed to learn to read adequately. The unsuccessful bill uncovered some unhappy truths about the state of education.
Third grade is recognized as a critical progression point for reading proficiency. Students through third grade are taught to read, after which they are expected to read to learn. Those unable to do so suffer a lifelong handicap in today’s knowledge economy with enormous economic and social consequences.
In 2019, 60 percent of Arizona’s third graders failed to meet our own reading standards. Unfortunately, nothing really new here.
Yet this ongoing failure is largely ignored by educators. There is little sense of urgency. Almost all of the failing third graders are routinely promoted to fourth grade, as if nothing of consequence had happened.
Here’s the worst of it. These dismal scores were recorded in the year before Covid, during which teachers’ unions refused in-person instruction. There was never the least evidence that school children suffered from Covid nor spread it.
Nevertheless, teachers received full pay and benefits. Ignoring “the science”, the unions insisted their work was far too dangerous.
No matter how much their students and families suffered, they stubbornly persisted. We’ll be years assessing the educational damage caused by their intransigence. Third graders mostly losing a year of reading instruction will be especially hard hit.
Yet even under these circumstances, government educators fiercely resisted the notion of a do-over, as they had before. They claimed that holding students back would cause more to drop out and result in worse outcomes. (Harvard research suggests the opposite).
Admittedly, holding back all non-reading third graders would be logistically difficult, although the long-term benefits to students and heightened accountability for educators would be well worth it. But educators’ real objection is that thousands of students in remediation would shine a bright light on their failure to perform what is arguably their most important duty: teaching basic literary skills to students who need them the most.
American education, with achievement levels lagging behind most other industrialized nations, has badly needed an overhaul for some time. The irony is that we know how to teach children effectively.
The Success Academies in New York, KIPP schools nationwide, Arizona charter schools and others have shown that it is a lie to pretend that disadvantaged students are “ineducable.“
Thomas Sowell found that New York City charter schools achieved proficiency levels several times that of district schools housed in the same building. Tuition scholarship programs in Arizona, DC and elsewhere have provided life-changing opportunity for thousands of children who otherwise would not have been so fortunate.
But in spite of their successes, school choice programs have been met with implacable hostility from an educational status quo that sees only threats, not opportunities to better serve. Some teachers’ unions even demanded further charter school restrictions as a condition for returning from their Covid vacation.
The result has been that critical reforms have been stymied. Tuition scholarship programs and charter schools, though growing, still have waiting lists. The default option for too many students is still the failing school closest to their home.
But the Covid debacle could be the springboard to wide sweeping reforms. Parents noticed the callous disregard for their children’s welfare from those they trusted. Some parents were shocked by the pervasive ideological indoctrination in the zoom lessons they observed.
They became comfortable with homeschooling and other options that put them more in charge of their children’s education. Not coincidently, Education Savings Accounts, funds made available to parents for any educational expenses in lieu of public school attendance, have been introduced in over twenty legislatures this year.
The fallout from our failing schools is enormous. We have produced a generation too many of whom are uneducated, entitled and angry. They are enamored with socialism and disdainful of American culture, including free speech. Moreover, income inequality has been widened by the very education activists so vexed by it.
Covid is our best chance to finally open up and modernize the structure of American education. Viva la Revolución!
Dr. Thomas Patterson, former Chairman of the Goldwater Institute, is a retired emergency physician. He served as an Arizona State senator for 10 years in the 1990s, and as Majority Leader from 93-96. He is the author of Arizona’s original charter schools bill.