Gov. Ducey proposes new education investments, but no tax increase - AZEdNews
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Gov. Ducey proposes new education investments, but no tax increase


Gov. Doug Ducey Greets Arizona Legislators Before His State Of The State Address At The Capitol In Phoenix On Jan. 13, 2020. Photo Courtesy Of Arizona Capitol Television

2:11 p.m.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said “the State of our State is strong, and it’s only getting better,” then said his budget proposal includes new investments in K-12 public education during his speech at the Arizona Capitol today.

“In total, we’ve pumped $4.5 billion in new investments into Arizona schools. With our latest budget, that figure will rise to $6.6 billion, and we’ve done all of this without raising taxes,” Gov. Ducey said.

AZ Capitol TV Video: Watch Gov. Ducey’s State of the State

“In addition, an even larger investment in school counselors, cops on campus, and school safety. A stronger focus on Career and Technical Education and the trades. More money for the Arizona Teachers Academy, and Teach for America. And a full, complete and accelerated restoration of flexible funding – two years ahead of schedule,” Gov. Ducey said.

Click here for the full text of Gov. Ducey’s State of the State address.

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Gov. Doug Ducey, center, delivers his State of the State address at the Arizona Legislature with House Speaker Rusty Bowers, left, and Senate President Karen Fann, right, in Phoenix on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo courtesy of Arizona Capitol Television

But Gov. Ducey said he would not support any increase in taxes to do these things.

“We’re running a billion dollar surplus and somehow that’s still not enough? Give us a break! Even better, give the hardworking taxpayers a break,” Gov. Ducey said.

“While Arizonans can, and should, boast about our amazing educators, world-class universities, top tier schools and community colleges, award-winning programs, and much more, we are still not doing enough to ensure every student has access to an excellent education every step of the way,” said Christine M. Thompson, president and CEO of Expect More Arizona. “To highlight only the successes is to tell only part of the story; Arizonans deserve the full narrative.”

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Gov. Doug Ducey greets Arizona Legislators before his State of the State address at the Capitol in Phoenix on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo courtesy of Arizona Capitol Television

“We are not on track to meet the goals outlined in the Arizona Education Progress Meter and our state’s low-income students are not receiving the support they need to succeed. This impacts all of us,” Thompson said.

“Investments proposed in STEM and workforce development funding, career and technical education, broadband, teacher pay and school safety are critical are encouraging, and we look forward to learning the details when the budget is released on Friday,” Thompson said.  

“But we should be clear that pilot programs and investments that partially address targeted needs won’t get us where we need to go,” Thompson said. “Closing Arizona’s achievement gap and meeting our shared goals requires us to get real about the cost of the audacious change needed in all of education, from the early years through postsecondary, and a commitment to put politics aside and work together on the necessary sustainable, long-term investments needed to get there.”

“These are indeed real kids and families we’re talking about. Let’s make sure we don’t leave a single one of them behind,” Thompson said.

AZEdNews Slideshow: 2020 Opening Day at the Arizona Legislature

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House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez, (D-LD 4) flanked by House and Senate Democratic Leaders presents the 2020 Blueprint for a Better Arizona on Jan. 13, 2020 at the Arizona Capitol rose garden. Photo by Morgan Willis/ AZEdNews

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Senate Minority Leader David Bradley (D-LD 10) talks about the 2020 Blueprint for a Better Arizona at a press conference at the Arizona Capitol rose garden on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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A crowd listens to Sen. David Bradley lay out the 2020 Blueprint for a Better Arizona at a press conference Jan. 13, 2020 at the Arizona Legislature. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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People listen to Sen. David Bradley describe the 2020 Blueprint for a Better Arizona at a press conference Jan. 13, 2020 at the Arizona Legislature. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Joe Thomas, right, president of the Arizona Education Association, talks about the Invest in Ed initiative while David Lujan, left, director of The Arizona Center for Economic Progress, who helped draft the initiative, during a press conference Jan. 13, 2020 at the Arizona Capitol in the rose garden. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, talks about the Invest in Ed initiative during a press conference Jan. 13, 2020 at the Arizona Capitol rose garden. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Marisol Garcia, vice president of Arizona Education Association, describes the conditions which her son and children across Arizona have gone to public school have experienced for the past nine years at the Invest in Ed initiative press conference Jan. 13, 2020 at the Arizona Capitol rose garden. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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David Lujan, director of The Arizona Center for Economic Progress, describes how the Invest in Ed initiative would add more than $900 million in funding to K-12 public education annually at a press conference Jan. 13, 2020 at the Arizona Capitol rose garden. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman heads into the Arizona House of Representatives to Hear Gov. Doug Ducey's State of the State address on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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People gather outside the Arizona Legislature before Opening Day ceremonies on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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GOP Chair Kelli Ward on the floor of the Arizona House before Opening Day ceremonies start on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Former Gov. Jan Brewer visits with Legislators on the floor of the Arizona House before Opening Day ceremonies start on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Reps. Pamela Powers-Hannley and Jennifer Longdon on the floor of the Arizona House before Opening Day ceremonies start on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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GOP Chair Kelli Ward visits with legislators on the floor of the Arizona House before Opening Day ceremonies start on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Rep. Athena Salman and Dr. Maria Harper-Marinick visit with others on the House floor before Gov. Doug Ducey's State of the State speech on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Antar Davidson and others on the House floor before Gov. Ducey's State of the State address Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Arizona Education Association Vice President Marisol Garcia visits with Rep. Athena Salman before Gov. Ducey's State of the State on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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House Speaker Rusty Bowers takes a photo with former AZ Gov. Jan Brewer on the House floor on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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House Speaker Rusty Bowers and legislators on the House floor before Gov. Ducey's State of the State on Jan 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Rep. Gerae Peten visits with others on the House floor before Gov. Ducey's State of the State on Jan 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Rep. Randall Friese visits with others on the House Floor before Gov. Ducey's State of the State on Jan 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Rep. Gerae Peten visits with other legislators and dignitaries on the House floor before Gov. Ducey's State of the State on Jan 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Legislators visit on the House Floor as House Speaker Rusty Bowers prepares for Opening Day ceremonies and Gov. Doug Ducey's State of the State on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez and Dr. Maria Harper-Marinick visit on the House floor before Gov. Ducey's State of the State on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Sen. Nancy Barto visits with people on the House floor before Gov. Ducey's State of the State on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Legislators enter the House Floor before Gov. Ducey's State of the State on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Rep. Reginald Bolding, other legislators and friends on the House floor before Gov. Ducey's State of the State on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez visits with people on the House floor before Gov. Ducey's State of the State on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Rep. Mitzi Epstein and other legislators visit on the House floor before Gov. Ducey's State of the State on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Legislators visit on the House floor before Gov. Ducey's State of the State on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Legislators visit on the House floor before Gov. Ducey's State of the State on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Rep. Michelle Udall visits with other Legislators on the House Floor Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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GOP Chair Kelli Ward visits with legislators on the House floor before Gov. Ducey's State of the State on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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House Speaker Rusty Bowers prepares for Gov. Ducey's State of the State as Legislators visit on the House Floor Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Legislators visit on the House Floor Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Rep. Michelle Udall takes photos with other legislators on the House Floor Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

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Gov. Doug Ducey greets Arizona Legislators before his State of the State address at the Capitol in Phoenix on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo courtesy of Arizona Capitol Television

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Gov. Doug Ducey, center, delivers his State of the State address at the Arizona Legislature with House Speaker Rusty Bowers, left, and Senate President Karen Fann, right, in Phoenix on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo courtesy of Arizona Capitol Television

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Gov. Ducey proposes restoring STEM and workforce development funding at community colleges as well as investments in career and technical education at the high school level.

“With money in the bank, let’s prioritize them,” Gov. Ducey said.

Gov. Ducey’s budget proposal would provide $4 million to rural community colleges to increase rural workforce development.

Gov. Ducey’s proposal would also invest to increase post-secondary attainment at Arizona’s public universities by raising the number of graduates in high-demand fields like engineering and healthcare.

Arizona State University plans to design and launch the largest center for engineering education and research in the U.S., while University of Arizona will focus on personalized medicine and cutting edge healthcare delivery models, and Northern Arizona University will have an emphasis on preparing students for the healthcare industry, with a focus on mental and behavioral health, Gov. Ducey said.

“Enrollment in the Teachers Academy has skyrocketed,” Gov. Ducey said as he welcomed new teachers at the Arizona Capitol. “This year we intend to build on our momentum to help more students go through the Teachers Academy.”

“Let’s provide them with access so they can get to the front of the classroom debt free,” Gov. Ducey said.

“There is still much to do to address the teacher shortage,” Gov. Ducey said noting that there is strong growth in teacher training enrollment in the state.

“We’ve provided funding to get schools built faster and most importantly by the start of the next school year, teacher pay will be up by 20 percent,” Gov. Ducey said.

“There’s still more we can do to help students in our state facing great challenges,” Gov. Ducey said.

“Real people and real kids are impacted by these policies,” Gov. Ducey said.

“We’re also going to finally fund and fully fund the cost for low-income students to take the Advanced Placement test, so like every other student, they can earn college credits in high school,” Gov. Ducey said.

Gov. Ducey also spoke about Project Rocket, which will provide additional dollars as well as access to proven strategies to help improve students’ academic outcomes at targeted schools.

“We’re working with Representative Michelle Udall to make it a reality. We owe it to the kids in these schools. They’re waiting. Let’s not let them down,” Gov. Ducey said.

In 2015, Arizona invested $575,000 to support a public-private partnership with Avondale Elementary School District aimed at improving student outcomes. The school serves more than 5,000 West Valley students, with nearly 70 percent of them residing in low-income areas. 

In three years, Avondale Elementary School District improved its AzMERIT performance by 13 percent in English/Language arts and by 18 percent in math, relative to the statewide average improvement of 7 percent in English and 6 percent in math. Later, Deer Valley Unified and Wickenburg Unified took part in the program, with both showing similar results.

Gov. Ducey’s budget proposal would expand this program to schools rated a D or F who could opt into the three-year pilot program to receive grants aimed at supporting the implementation of proven strategies to close the achievement gap. C-rated schools that serve more than 60 percent of students who qualify for free- and reduced lunch could also opt-in to the program.

“Throughout our priorities you will see a focus on rural Arizona,” Gov. Ducey said. “There are needs outside the great state of Maricopa.”

Small business is the backbone of our economy and we’re working to get rural Arizonans back to work and bolster rural economies, Gov. Ducey said.

“Overall we are doing more with less. Our hard working state employees are rooting out waste,” Gov. Ducey said.

11:12 a.m.

Leaders of the Invest In Ed movement today announced a ballot initiative that would raise more than $900 million a year for Arizona public K-12 education if approved by voters in the 2020 general election.

“About an hour ago, we filed for initiative the Invest in Education Act and we are very excited for the opportunity that we get only every two years to put in front of the voters a vision of Arizona – a very different vision for what Arizona needs to be successful than what you’re going to hear today (from the governor),” said Joe Thomas, a social studies teacher from Mesa who serves as president of the Arizona Education Association.

Video by Morgan Willis/ AZEdNews: Invest in Ed initiative announced

In August 2018, an Arizona Supreme Court ruling took a similarly named but differently worded initiative off the ballot with then Chief Justice Scott Bales noting that, “A majority of the court finds that the proposition’s description of the change in tax rate combined with the omission of any discussion of changes in indexing for inflation collectively creates a significant danger of confusion or unfairness” and finds the ballot language is inadequate by law. 

At the press conference today, Marisol Garcia, a teacher from the Isaac School District who serves as vice president of the Arizona Education Association, said her son, Vicente, who has gone through Arizona public schools from kindergarten through eighth grade, has had the same experience as millions of Arizona students.

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Marisol Garcia, vice president of Arizona Education Association, describes the conditions which her son and children across Arizona have gone to public school have experienced for the past nine years at the Invest in Ed initiative press conference Jan. 13, 2020 at the Arizona Capitol rose garden. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

“The state allowing instability and underfunding of his education,” Garcia said. “He has to be, along with every son and daughter, the priority of this state.”

Retired teachers and other education advocates carrying signs supporting Invest in Ed surrounded the speakers at the press conference at the Arizona Capitol rose garden.

“For the past few years, Arizona’s business leaders have consistently said that increased funding for Arizona’s public schools is critical to produce the skilled workforce Arizona needs for a strong economic future,” said David Lujan, director of The Arizona Center for Economic Progress.

“The Invest in Ed ballot initiative will provide the strategic investments Arizona needs in it’s public schools to attract new businesses and jobs to our state and boost long-term economic growth, and that is a pro-business strategy,” Lujan said.

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David Lujan, director of The Arizona Center for Economic Progress, describes how the Invest in Ed initiative would add more than $900 million in funding to K-12 public education annually at a press conference Jan. 13, 2020 at the Arizona Capitol rose garden. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

“When passed, the Invest in Education Act will add an income tax surcharge only to the wealthiest earners in Arizona,” Lujan said.

Individuals earning more than $250,000 a year and households earning more than $500,000 a year would pay a 3.5 percent surcharge on the taxable income they earn in excess of $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for households if the Investment in Education Act is approved by voters.

Click here to read the Invest in Education Act in its entirety as it was filed with the Arizona Secretary of State, on Jan. 13, 2020.

“Based on Arizona Department of Revenue models, this will generate $940 million annually for teachers, counselors, therapists, support staff, vocational education and other critical services,” Luhan said.

“Any income they earn below those accounts will be taxed under Arizona’s current income tax brackets, which we are not changing, and which are the fourth lowest in the nation,” Lujan said.

“If Invest in Ed passes, the effective tax rate for the top 1 percent of earners in Arizona will be 4.4 percent,” Lujan said. “The average effective tax rate for the top 1 percent nationally is 4.6 percent.”

The Invest in Ed coalition studied all potential revenue sources in putting this ballot measure together, including income, sales, property tax, other fees and combinations of those taxes with the goal of finding a way to raise education funding without hurting working families or folks on fixed incomes, Lujan said.

“And most importantly, Arizona’s public schools will have $940 million in new, annual, permanent funding to educate our students,” Lujan said.

Click here for an AZEdNews story about this recent Invest in Ed Act

10: 06 a.m.

At a 10 a.m. press conference, House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez, (D-LD 4) and Senate Minority Leader David Bradley (D- LD 10) presented Arizona Senate and House Democratic leaders’ 2020 Blueprint for a Better Arizona.

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House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez, (D-LD 4) flanked by House and Senate Democratic Leaders presents the 2020 Blueprint for a Better Arizona on Jan. 13, 2020 at the Arizona Capitol rose garden. Photo by Morgan Willis/ AZEdNews

“Arizona is indeed the land of opportunity. Our student body has all the unlimited potential as well as the most challenging obstacles that define 21st century rural and urban America, Our state will be what we make it,” House Minority Leader Fernandez said.

Video by Morgan Willis/ AZEdNews: Arizona Democratic leaders’ priorities for the session

“Our schools remain one of the most underfunded schools in this country,” House Minority Leader Fernandez said. “Our teachers’ pay is nowhere near the national average. Instructional material is still outdated, and college attainment is not where it needs to be for our economic future, but the tax cuts keep coming and the status quo remains the majority’s primary agenda.”

“Well, we have an alternative. It doesn’t have to be this way,” House Minority Leader Fernandez said. “We are ready to lead, and as problem solvers finally make the investments in education and infrastructure that Arizonans just like you are demanding. We are ready to lead. We are ready to work with anybody and anyone, but we will not compromise our values.”

“We believe in building a strong economy from the ground up with working families earning fair pay drive growth through demand and the belief in a secure future,” House Minority Leader Fernandez said. “A state that is good for workers is a state that is good for business.”

“Together our Senate and House Democrats have a unified vision to move Arizona forward with transparency, fairness and equal opportunity for all,” House Minority Leader Fernandez said. “Senator Bradley and I will share our seven top priorities for this session.”

Click here for Arizona Democratic Senate and House Leaders Blueprint for a Better Arizona 2020

“First, we will invest in children for a healthy, sustainable future. Democrats remain the fiercest and most staunch defenders of public schools, community colleges and universities,” House Minority Leader Fernandez said.

Republican half-measures keep us treading water but that’s not good enough, House Minority Leader Fernandez said.

“There has been progress, but we have not paid back all that is owed to our schools after the massive cuts during the recession. Folks we can do better,” House Minority Leader Fernandez said.

“Our plan addresses Arizona’s teacher shortage crisis and will make sure they have up to date instructional materials for our kids,” House Minority Leader Fernandez said. “We must increase school social workers and counselors to increase campus safety.”

“Later today the Governor will pat himself on the back for Arizona’s economy, but I ask you all here do you feel secure?” House Minority Leader Fernandez asked.

“No,” said the crowd.

“Here in the real world we know that unemployment figures do not tell the whole story,” House Minority Leader Fernandez said. “One job should be enough, but is it?”

“No,” the crowd responded.

Wages remain low, and “too many Arizonans must work multiple jobs to make ends meet,” said House Minority Leader Fernandez.

Democrats will defend the affordable healthcare act, expand coverage to working families, and improve healthcare outcomes for children and pregnant women, House Minority Leader Fernandez said.

Senate Minority Leader David Bradley (D-LD 10) said a goal of Democratic leaders in the 2020 Legislative Session is to empower individual Arizonans not special interests.

“Arizona voters have a right to cast their ballots and be heard in fair elections free from supression efforts,” Senate Minority Leader Bradley said.

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Senate Minority Leader David Bradley (D-LD 10) talks about the 2020 Blueprint for a Better Arizona at a press conference at the Arizona Capitol rose garden on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

“Our plan protects voters and reduced interferences in our elections by modernizing voting equipment, working to secure automatic voter registration and same day voter registration,” Senate Minority Leader Bradley said.

“We will fight to ensure that every Arizonan has the right to live, learn and work where they want regardless of whom they love,” Senate Minority Leader Bradley said. “Equality, regardless of who you are, where you live, or who you love is one of our most fundamental American values. Unfortunately, equality is also the idea we struggle hardest to match. In Arizona, we know our diversity is our greatest strength.”

“Last session, we repealed Arizona’s discriminatory No Promo law that let bullying of LGBTQ students in schools, now we must pass a statewide non discrimination act. We cannot let Arizona slide backwards on this issue,” Senate Minority Leader Bradley said.

“We will continue to work across the aisle on criminal justice reform to end mass incarceration and close the school to prison pipeline,” Senate Minority Leader Bradley said.

“We must build upon our historic drought contingency plan to more forcefully confront polluters and ensure clean air and water for every Arizona family,” Senate Minority Leader Bradley said. “A strong and resilient economy depends on clean air, drinkable water and public lands free from pollution. Democrats will back science and sustainability measures.”

Senate Minority Leader Bradley said we must also connect our rural and tribal communities through broadband internet.

“Years of tax cuts have left our state with a woefully underfunded education system and roads in need of repairs,” Senate Minority Leader Bradley said.

6:00 a.m.

After the Arizona Legislature‘s opening day ceremonies today at noon, Gov. Doug Ducey will outline his education budget priorities in his State of the State starting around 2 p.m.

What will Gov. Ducey say he’d like to do for K-12 and higher education?

Or you can Watch it live here courtesy of Arizona Capitol Television. Click here for Gov. Doug Ducey’s State of the State courtesy Arizona Capitol TV

This year, Arizona Legislature Republican leadership did not wait to see what Gov. Ducey proposed, instead they developed their own budget proposal.

Republican legislative leaders started meeting with state department heads to work on the backbone of the budget in September, and “as you know, education is our Number One priority in the budget,” said Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, (R-LD 1), during an interview with KJZZ 91.5 FM’s Mark Brodie.

Gov. Ducey proposes new education investments, but no tax increase Cropped-State-of-the-State-2019-Ducey-1
Gov. Doug Ducey greets Arizona Legislators before his State of the State address at the Capitol in Phoenix on Jan. 14, 2019. Photo courtesy of Arizona Capitol Television

“We have that last piece of teachers’ raises that will kick in to give them that last 20 percent,” Senate President Fann said in the KJZZ 91.5 FM interview, noting they’re also looking at whether there is more money to put towards district additional assistance and school building renewal and school construction.

At the same time, eight legislative work groups including teachers met to discuss education issues, said Rep. Michelle Udall, (R-LD 25), House Education Committee Chair and House Appropriations Committee member.

Gov. Ducey proposes new education investments, but no tax increase Heather-Carter-and-Amish-Shah-HP
Sen. Heather Carter and Rep. Amish Shah visit before Gov. Doug Ducey’s State of the State address on Jan. 14, 2019 at the Arizona Legislature in Phoenix. Photo by ASBA

Legislators have considered how they’d like to spend or save the  estimated $140 million in ongoing funding and the estimated $475 million in one-time funding that the Joint Legislative Budget Committee forecast in October to be available this session.

On Thursday, Arizona House Republicans released their 2020 Majority plan for the session, which includes the providing the remaining 5 percent of the 20 percent by 2020 teacher pay raise, as well as investments in school building renewal, new school construction and the continued restoration of district additional assistance.

In addition to that, Sen. J.D. Mesnard, (R-Chandler), will introduce a bill this week that would cut property taxes, repeal the state’s $32 highway safety fee six months early, and give tax breaks to businesses that would cut tax revenues by nearly $300 million over the next three years, according to an Arizona Capitol Times article.

This session K-12 public education advocates have been working on an acceleration of the Legislature’s restoration of district additional assistance, more money for school building maintenance, as well as increased funding to cover the actual costs of special education student services and “getting some investment into the formula or a weighted system for students who are experiencing poverty,” said Chris Kotterman, director of governmental relations for Arizona School Boards Association.

Related articles:
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Legislators’ plans for school safety, special ed, K-12 funding
Budget forecast: Growing revenue for K-12, public safety priorities
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Republican Legislative Leaders would like to approve a budget in late February, said House Majority Leader Warren Petersen, (R-LD12), in an Arizona Republic article.

But Democratic leaders don’t think that will happen.

Arizona Democratic legislators would like to see significant investments in education that include completely restoring district additional assistance and additional pay increases for teachers and support staff who work with students, said House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez, (D-LD 4).

When asked by KJZZ 91.5 FM’s Mark Brodie what the biggest issue of this session will be, House Minority Leader Fernandez said, “K-12 education obviously, community colleges and higher education is right there with it, but definitely K-12.”

House Minority Leader Fernandez said to KJZZ that district additional assistance, teacher pay, class sizes are priorities, and “now we have a few more, we have schools that feel the need for additional counselors and social workers, people who can take care of the needs of kids who are having problems and we know that there are families out there struggling.”

Adding a poverty weight to the school funding formula “would very much help an area like Yuma County and would also help all our rural areas, although metropolitan areas see those problems too,” House Minority Leader Fernandez said in the KJZZ interview.

Arizona Senate and House Democratic leaders, including House Minority Leader Fernandez and Senate Minority Leader David Bradley (D-LD 10), will present their Legislative priorities – their 2020 Blueprint for a Better Arizona – during a press conference at 10 a.m. today.

Their 2020 Blueprint for a Better Arizona will focus on investing in Arizona’s children, “fighting for equality, good jobs and workplace rights, protecting access to healthcare, rebuilding our infrastructure and protecting voting rights,” according to a press release.

Right now, the number of bills legislators will introduce it nearly twice the number in previous years.

Among those bills is Senate Bill 1071, sponsored by Sen. Martin Quezada, (D- LD 29), to repeal the passage of SB 1070 in 2010 that let law enforcement check the immigration status or any person they had reasonable suspicion of being in the U.S. illegally.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned three provisions of the law, but allowed law enforcement to still demand legal documentation, according to a Phoenix New Times article. In 2016, the State of Arizona settled lawsuits by dropping the provision the U.S. Supreme Court left intact.