Educator: Increased education funding a ‘down payment’ on lasting change


RALPH QUINTANA: UNPRECEDENTED AS TO WHAT WE ARE OWED OR THEY HAVE NOT GIVEN US MONEY IN TEN YEARS. I'M CONFUSED BY THE WORD SUBSTANTIAL. AS AN ENGLISH TEACHER, IT MEANS MORE TO ME THAN THOSE AT THE CAPITOL.

TED SIMONS: 400 MILLION DOLLARS IN RESTORED FUNDS, STILL $600 SHORT FROM TEN YEARS AGO. YOU HAVE YOUR NOSE UNDER THE TENT. WITH 9% PAY RACE, PLEDGE OF 20% BY 20-20, WAS THE WALK OUT WORTH IT?

RALPH QUINTANA: WE WILL SEE. REMEMBER NOVEMBER IS BECOMING A POPULAR PHRASE AMONGST US AS EDUCATORS. MANY OF US KNOW THIS WILL NOT FIX THE PROPOSAL AS TO WHY WE ARE LOSING TEACHERS. IF YOU DO NOT TALK TO TEACHERS, THAT WILL NOT FIX THE PROBLEM. WE WILL SHAKE OUR HEAD AND SAY, YOU DID NOT FIX THE PROBLEM, AND SO WE ARE UPSET WITH YOU.

TED SIMONS: YOU WERE UPSET AT THE END OF THE WALKOUT, BUT AT THE END OF THE WALKOUT, IT LOOKS SIMILAR TO THE GOVERNOR'S PLAN. WAS IT WORTH IT?

RALPH QUINTANA: FOR ME, I WOULD SAY YES. IT IS WHAT I CALL A DOWN PAYMENT. IT IS BETTER THAN NOTHING IS. WE HAVE TO MAKE UP OUR DAYS AND HOURS WE OWE OUR STUDENTS, BUT IT BROUGHT PUBLIC AWARENESS TO THE SITUATION THEY DID NOT HAVE BEFORE. IT WILL LEAD US TO NOVEMBER TO MAKE LASTING CHANGE AND REVENUE INCREASE TO PROVIDE ALL OF THE FUNDING THEY ARE ASKING FOR.

TED SIMONS: I KNOW THERE WERE NO PAY HIKES FOR EDUCATION WORKERS. $100 MILLION COULD GO TO THEM BUT THEN NOT TO BOOKS AND MAINTENANCE AND THE WHOLE NINE YARDS, CORRECT?

RALPH QUINTANA: CORRECT. WE HAVE BEEN DEPRIVED THE MONEYS UPWARDS FIVE TO SIX YEARS. THEY ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT REPAYING THAT. THEY HAVE GIVEN US AN INCREASE, BUT THEY HAVE NOT PAID BACK WHAT THEY WERE REQUIRED OF FOR THE LAST FIVE TO SIX YEARS THAT THEY DEPRIVED US. THAT IS CLOSE TO $2 BILLION, THEY ARE GIVING US $373 MILLION THIS YEAR, AND THAT A BIT SHORT. I AM NOT EVEN A MATH TEACHER.

TED SIMONS: DO YOU FEEL THE INCREASES ARE SUSTAINABLE?

RALPH QUINTANA: THAT IS WHAT'S WORRY SOME TO US. IT IS BASED ON THE ECONOMY INCREASED, AND IF IT IS FLAT LINED, THEY ARE NOT REQUIRED TO GIVE THE PAYMENTS FOR CAPITAL FUNDS OR RAISE. IF YOU ARE A TEACHER AND SUPPOSED TO GET 5% THIS YEAR BUT THE ECONOMY NORMALIZES, WE ARE NOT GETTING THE MONEY. WHAT IS IN THE BILL IS TRIGGER LANGUAGE.

TED SIMONS: AS FAR AS THE ECONOMY FLAT LINE, MOST ECONOMISTS ARE SAYING IT IS DOUBTFUL TO HAPPEN. ARIZONA'S ECONOMY COULD SEE 1.5 MILLION IN REVENUE. JOB GROWTH TOP FIVE IN THE COUNTRY. ALL OF THIS BUSINESS, GROWTH ESTIMATE REVENUE REVISED 75% HIGHER THAN THEY WERE. ALL OF THOSE THINGS SUGGEST THAT IT COULD BE SUSTAINABLE. IT LOOKS THAT WAY.

RALPH QUINTANA: AND WE ARE STILL SHORT OVER $1 BILLION IN TAXES WITHHOLDING US FROM WHAT WE HAVE. AFTER FIVE YEARS, WE WILL BE CLOSE TO $600 MILLION BEHIND WHAT WE SHOULD HAVE BEEN GETTING. IT IS QUITE SHORT OF WHAT THEY OWE US IN ARIZONA. THE ESTIMATES ARE $680 MILLION OF YEARLY FUNDING. THAT GIVES A SIZEABLE JUNK OF FUNDS BACK. I THINK THE PUSHBACK IS GOING TO BE HUGE, SUBSTANTIALLY. I THINK IT WILL BE DIFFICULT TO PASS THAT. I WORRY ABOUT THE POLITICS INSTEAD OF A BALANCED APPROACH TO INCREASED REVENUE.

TED SIMONS: WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE POLITICS?

RALPH QUINTANA: YOU ARE TRYING TO TAX THE WEALTHY THREE TO FOUR TIMES WHAT THEY HAVE NOW. IF I AM A WEALTHY BILLIONAIRE AND YOU CUT MY TAXES AND NOW YOU WANT TO RAISE THEM, REALLY HIKE THEM UP THREE TO FOUR TIMES WHAT YOU WERE PAYING, I AM NOT GOING TO BE HAPPY WITH THAT. I DO NOT KNOW THAT IS WISE TO MAKE THE SUPER WEALTHY BANKROLL INCREASES TO EDUCATION BECAUSE THAT WILL LEAD TO WHAT I CONSIDER CLASS WELFARE.

TED SIMONS: HOW DO YOU GET PAST THE DEFICIT AND SPENDING REGARDING WHAT THE LEGISLATURE OWES? HOW DO YOU GET THE MONEY FROM THE CLASS WAR INITIATIVE, IS THERE ANOTHER RED FOR ED COME SEPTEMBER, AUGUST WHEN SCHOOL IS BACK IN SESSION?

RALPH QUINTANA: I WOULD LOOK AT THE LEGISLATORS THAT REFUSE TO TALK TO US AS THE CULPRITS WE ARE FACING IN EDUCATION. THERE IS A BALANCED APPROACH TO INCREASING REVENUE INTO THE FUNDING OF EDUCATION. IT SEEMS COMMON SENSE TO ME, BUT NOT TO THE PEOPLE OPPOSING IT. THEY WOULD RATHER GO OTHER ROUTES. IF THE GDP IS 3.5 OR $3.6 BILLION, WE HAVE THE MONEY IN THE ECONOMY. THE ARGUMENT AGAINST IT, THE GOVERNOR IS USING WORKS TO MY ADVANTAGE.

TED SIMONS: WHAT IS THE BALANCED APPROACH?

RALPH QUINTANA: INCOME TAXES IS PART OF IT. LOOK AT IT IS FAIRLY AND SALES TAX. YOU WANT TO CLOSE TAX LOOPHOLES AND TAX GIVE AWAYS. WE HAVE THE MONEY TO INCREASE REVENUE PRIOR TO THE 2008 LEVELS. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY THE HARD COMPROMISE ON THIS WHEN THE PUBLIC AGREES WITH PAYING MORE SO WE CAN PROPERLY FUND OUR SCHOOLS.

TED SIMONS: AS WE STAND NOW, YOU ARE A TEACHER. WHAT ARE YOU HEARING FROM OTHER TEACHERS, THE TEACHER RESPONSE SO WHAT HAPPENED THIS MORNING?

RALPH QUINTANA: IT IS A DOWN PAYMENT. WE ARE GETTING MONEY, BUT IT IS NOT GOING TO FIX THE PROBLEMS IN THE CLASSROOM. IF YOU ARE A TEACHER, DEALING WITH LARGE CLASS SIZES, OLD TEXTBOOKS, CRUMBLING BUILDINGS, IT IS NOT GOING TO GET FIXED WITH THE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS. HOW DO YOU THINK WE FEEL?

TED SIMONS: I GOTCHA. GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN. THANKS FOR BEING HERE.

The new state budget signed Thursday morning by Governor Doug Ducey gives teachers a nine percent pay increase this year and gives back $100 million to schools. According to Ralph Quintana, president of the Arizona Federation of Teachers, it isn’t enough.

The legislature is calling this budget a “substantial” increase for education, but Quintana doesn’t fully agree. He says the legislature hasn’t awarded teachers and classrooms with funding for the last ten years, so in his view this budget isn’t substantial, it’s what they have long been owed.

“‘Remember in November’ is becoming a really popular phrase among us educators,” Quintana says. “I really think they’ve poked the bear a little bit here. Many of us educators who are in the classroom right now know this isn’t going to fix the problem of why we’re losing teachers.”

Quintana says for him, the walkout was worth it because they didn’t walk away with nothing. He considers the new funding to education to be a down payment on everything the government still owes them. Possibly the best result of the walkout is that they brought public awareness to the situation like never before.

“I think this will lead us into November to actually make lasting change and hopefully someday force revenue increases that will improve all the funding we are asking for,” the English teacher says.

While the budget is a win, Quintana says it doesn’t even come close to all the money the government owes education as required by the Arizona Constitution. With every new tax cut, money has been taken away from classrooms.

Quintana says he’s also not a fan of some of the wording in the new budget. The government is counting on the economy to be successful in order to fund this, and there’s nothing in the budget that says they’re required to give the teachers their raise if the economy is not as profitable as expected.

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Ralph Quintana: President, Arizona Federation of Teachers

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