The Daily Agenda: Tick Tick Tick…

As Arizona’s education doomsday clock continues ticking down, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman served up a pointed State of Education speech to the Senate Education Committee yesterday detailing exactly how much money schools located in lawmakers’ districts stand to lose if lawmakers don’t lift the education spending cap.

And honestly, it’s worth repeating those numbers.

But first, ICYMI, the education spending cap is the biggest looming problem in Arizona right now. But Republican leaders at the Capitol don’t seem worried.

If lawmakers can’t muster a two-thirds vote to increase the cap in the next 11 legislative days, schools will be barred from spending more than $1 billion that they already have in their bank accounts and have budgeted for this school year. That’s a 16% across-the-board cut to schools — but it’s really more like a 100% cut of what’s left for the year.

We’ll try to explain it like a teacher would: Imagine your parents gave you a $100 budget for the month. It’s the 25th day of the month and you already spent $84. Suddenly, your parents say you can only spend $84 this month. So you have $0 instead of $16 for rest of the month. That’s the position schools are in.

We’re talking teacher layoffs, program cuts, class consolidations and full-blown school closures ahead of summer break.

“We all agree that we must do everything possible to keep our schools open. But the biggest threat of widespread school closures comes not from the virus, but a school finance relic from 1980, the aggregate expenditure limit,” Hoffman said.

The reason we’re hitting the cap is somewhat complicated, but it boils down to fewer students were attending school last year because of the pandemic, lawmakers extended an education tax a few years back but didn’t exempt those funds from the cap as they had in the past, and lawmakers have put a bunch more money into education in recent years.

But, as Hoffman noted, lawmakers have so far refused to lift the cap even though the Constitution allows them a mechanism to do so, as they have every time schools have exceeded the cap in the past.

And don’t count on Gov. Doug “open schools” Ducey to whip lawmakers into action — he has washed his hands of the whole problem.


Even the Republican lawmakers who would be most sympathetic to the plight of teachers and schools aren’t showing any sense of urgency on the issue. Arizona Sen. Paul Boyer, a former teacher, told Hoffman the problem is a “potential hypothetical” and argued lawmakers still have time.

But let’s get back to those numbers Hoffman mentioned. If lawmakers don’t lift the cap by March 1:That may be true. Republican Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers told 12 News’ Brahm Resnik yesterday that he has legislation ready and “we’re gonna get there.” Not doing so would wreak havoc on teachers, students, parents and likely Republican lawmakers’ electoral chances.
But so far, they’ve treated what Hoffman calls a “ticking time bomb” more like a political football. They haven’t lifted the cap because they’re afraid doing so would undercut their legal arguments against Proposition 208, which increased taxes on high-income Arizonans to fund education. Democrats have introduced legislation to lift the cap, but it has gone nowhere.

In Boyer’s district, Washington Elementary School District would see a $25 million cut.

In Sen. T.J. Shope’s district, Superior Unified School District would be cut by nearly $500,000, Miami USD would lose nearly $2 million and Coolidge USD (where Shope was once on the school board) would lose nearly $3 million.

In Sen. Nancy Barto’s district, Deer Valley USD stands to lose more than $36 million.

In Sen. Rick Gray’s district, Peoria USD would see a $43 million cut.

In Sen. Tyler Pace’s district, Mesa USD would lose $73 million.

If you want to learn more about the aggregate education limit, here’s a handy Q&A and a list of all districts and their expected cuts.

And if you want your kids to finish the school year in their own classes and schools, you better tell your lawmakers. Here’s where to find them.

We don’t think they’re friends: Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs filed suit against Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich to prevent him from filing suit against her over the E-Qual system, which allows candidates to collect signatures to get on the ballot online. The system hasn’t worked since redistricting this year, and Hobbs said her office needs to take the system offline to update it for the new districts, which Brnovich said would be illegal.

Guess we’ll have to stick with public schools: Turning Point USA wants to start its own school, dubbed the Turning Point Academy, to focus on “America-first” curriculum. The group struck up a plan with StrongMind, an education company whose CEO also is the CEO of online school Primavera, but the plans fell apart this week after the Washington Post’s Isaac Stanley-Becker and Beth Reinhard started asking about it. Some employees at StrongMind were upset when they learned that Turning Point and its founder, Charlie Kirk, were the clients. And a subcontractor whose work was critical to StrongMind’s plan pulled out after learning the project was for Kirk, too. Still, Turning Point says its plans for a school will continue.

Better luck next time: The bipartisan housing bill we wrote about last week was “indefinitely held” in committees this week as one of its sponsors, Democratic Rep. César Chávez, said it would go back to the stakeholder phase to iron out issues. The bill encountered pushback from cities because of its preemptions to city zoning, and critics said it did little to address the state’s affordable housing crisis.

We’re disgruntled current employees over here: A former senior water quality inspector for the City of Phoenix is suing the city, saying he was fired after he raised concerns over environmental hazards and potential illegal hookups for sewer services, the Republic’s Jen Fifield writes. The city, for its part, says Ian Day is a “disgruntled former employee” and the claims are unfounded.

It’s sort of 19, sort of 29: The latest round of daily stories on Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel marches on. Adel misstated the amount of time she spent in rehab while trying to repair her image in this week’s media tour. Adel previously said she was in rehab for 19 days, then said on the radio yesterday that it was actually 29 days, the Republic’s Robert Anglen reports. The 19 days was the correct figure for inpatient treatment, her office later said, though she then spent nearly two weeks in outpatient treatment as well, which is how you arrive at 29 days of treatment.

Looking back to look forward: To understand the current public conflict between U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and the U.S. Rep. who probably wants her job in 2024, Ruben Gallego, you need to understand a 2006 campaign against an anti-gay marriage measure. The Republic’s Ronald J. Hansen and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez delve into the fallout between the two, who both worked on the campaign until Sinema had Gallego taken off the campaign. The campaign gives insight into their differing political approaches today. And while Gallego gave an interview, Sinema’s spokesman just sent the paper this scathing statement:

“As a longstanding professional courtesy, Senator Sinema does not comment on now-Congressman Gallego’s dismissal from his brief entry-level, administrative role on the 2006 Arizona Together campaign,” spokesman John LaBombard told the Republic.

If want to listen to Hank rant for eight minutes: Arizona Public Media’s Andrew Oxford compiled a list of travel expenses over $1,000 that lawmakers accepted last year, courtesy of someone else who paid the bill. Most of the trips are within the U.S., though some trips were to Mexico, El Salvador, Romania and Kazakhstan (in a pandemic!) He also talked to Hank at-length about the limited information included in lawmakers’ public disclosures.

Ball’s in your court, Ducey: Brnovich’s legal opinion that Gov. Doug Ducey can invoke war powers and use the National Guard at the U.S.-Mexico border puts pressure on Ducey to take more action, the Arizona Capitol Times’ Nick Phillips reports. Ducey continues to place blame back on the Biden administration.

Ball’s in your court, Brno: Republican U.S. Senate candidate Michael “Mick” McGuire got some press for his otherwise forgettable campaign by challenging Brnovich to publicly release the records related to the State Bar of Arizona agreement.

If at first you don’t succeed, sue, sue again: While Arizona lost in federal court on Monday in its attempt to halt some of Biden’s border policies, the state started a new lawsuit against the Biden administration over a new requirement to increase the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15 per hour.

It’s roundup time in the newsletter again: Three bills to expand vouchers, pushback about guns on campus, an opinion piece about how bills targeting LGBTQ people threaten both the people who live here and businesses.

Actions have consequences?: All the uncertainty created at the state level over voting has a real impact on elections, it turns out. In Cochise County, voters are confused over whether they’ll be able to mail in or drop off early ballots at drop boxes in the next election, the Herald/Review’s R.J. Cohn reports.
Some news about the Sonoran desert tortoise: It is not yet an endangered species. (You can, however, still adopt a desert tortoise.)

Road trip potential: Now that the U.S.-Mexico border is open to Mexican tourists again, yard sales and second-hand purchases reentered the cross-border economy, much to the delight of buyers and sellers in border towns, the Nogales International’s Angela Gervasi reports.

Look at this Arizona man living our dreams: An Arizonan visiting Las Vegas unknowingly hit the jackpot in a casino and left, so the casino tracked him down to give him a comically large check.

If we ever win a huge sum of money, you’ll never hear from us again, we promise. But until then, we humbly ask for your financial and spiritual support as we continue to try to make money as local journalists. We’ll mail you a sticker in return!

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Wouldn’t it be great if there were more governments? A group of small-government Republicans seems to think so. House Bill 2787, sponsored by Arizona Rep. Jake Hoffman and seven other Republicans, would split Maricopa County into four smaller counties, keeping one as Maricopa and naming the others Mogollon, Hohokam and O’odham.

Counties in Arizona and other parts of the West are indeed large, especially compared to states with smaller populations that have dozens upon dozens of counties. That’s not necessarily bad, though.

The proposed new counties seem to group ideologically similar areas of town with one another. It’s worth noting: Maricopa County’s leadership is already largely conservative. Its board of supervisors has only one Democrat, and the recorder, attorney, assessor, treasurer and superintendent are all Republicans, too.

Quests to add new counties in the past fell flat — or cost so much, it led to new laws. La Paz County, the most recently created new county, cost the state money because its tax base couldn’t support the new government at first, and it’s now harder to become a new county. And then there was last year’s goofy, farcical attempt at creating a new county.

A new poll showing GOP gubernatorial candidate Matt Salmon gaining on former newscaster Kari Lake must have Lake scared because she’s been doing more interviews lately with legacy media.

You may have noticed that “straight news” reporters haven’t quite been able to crack the code of how to deal with Lake.

The pure insanity of the things she says doesn’t quite translate in the inverted pyramid-style stories of the Associated Press or the Republic. And she can spin a live interview better than the most hard-nosed, well-coiffed TV reporters. They’re more likely to become campaign fodder for her than to get coherent answers to policy questions.

It’s something we’ve been meaning to write about. But not today.

Today we’re just chuckling at Lake’s truly jaw-dropping performance yesterday on The Gaydos and Chad Show on KTAR and silently applauding “Larry” Gaydos for showing a chink in Lake’s armor. For 11 minutes, Gaydos held his ground by acknowledging his own beliefs and trying his damndest to keep the interview about Lake, not him.

No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. We had already written this when we caught the Gaydos and Chad interview yesterday.

We already laughed at GOP gubernatorial candidates Kari Lake and Matt Salmon shooting guns and posting videos to one-up each other, but today we’re laughing at Lake exclusively, after she went on a gun-lover’s podcast and didn’t seem to know much about her own firearms.

The Second Amendment advocate and “lifetime member of the NRA” (it’s just a tier you pay for, not a descriptor of how long you’ve been a member) claimed she has several guns, but didn’t know what kind of guns and couldn’t name her favorite gun — other than a “small Glock I carry around with me, so watch out.”
The whole interview had some serious Sarah Palin claiming she reads news vibes, as Lake clearly knows about as much about guns as Palin does about newspapers.

On that note, and this is a serious plea, we would love to go shooting with any candidate that will have us.


AUTHOR: Rachel Leingang and Hank Stephenson

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