May 5, 2020
By Matt Beienburg
Arizona’s largest teachers union, the Arizona Education Association (AEA), may have outdone itself.
After spending over 2 years pushing its “#InvestinEd” ballot initiative to hike up taxes and increase public school costs, it has launched a screen-sized banner ad at The Arizona Republic homepage this week to boost its signature gathering efforts and drum up support for its economic message.
Remarkably, that message now features the union’s displeasure that Arizona might be at least somewhat prepared to weather the current economic storm, thanks to the Governor’s plan last year to stuff the rainy day fund with $1 billion. Indeed, readers who click the #InvestinEd ad (mea culpa: I was curious) will quickly learn that Arizona would have been better off blowing that moneyrather than having it available as a much-needed life raft now. As the AEA’s #InvestinEd page unabashedly complains:
“Last session, [Arizona legislators] squandered a billion-dollar surplus, putting the majority of the money into a rainy day fund, while enacting even more tax cuts.” (emphasis added)
Perhaps the AEA just forgot to update its messaging when it greenlit the new ad blitz, but perhaps it sincerely does regret that most of last year’s surplus funds went to protect against the sort of economic calamity now looming over the state.
Why? Because the AEA just missed out on a decade’s worth of talking points: For years, the AEA, RedforEd activists, etc. have pointed to Arizona’s 2007-2008 record-setting per pupil spending levels, trashing lawmakers for not sustaining them in years after. But left out of the AEA narrative is the fact that this short-lived peak had come on the heels of dramatic spending increases during the pre-recession boom years, and that when the recession hit, it turned out these increases had been fiscally unsustainable.
Now, 12 years later, it seems the AEA wishes there had been a re-run: another massive spike in K-12 spending (above and beyond the 20% pay raises, etc.) that the state would have been wholly unprepared to pay for this year, and one that the AEA could use to condemn lawmakers for when they inevitably rolled it back.
Many—on both sides of the aisle—questioned the wisdom of plowing such huge amounts of funding into the rainy day fund, but looking back now, most of us are glad to have the cushion. Apparently, though, not the AEA.
You know what they say: Hindsight is…blind?
Matt Beienburg is the Director of Education Policy at the Goldwater Institute.