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Prop. 127 will divert money from schools in name of idealism

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The world is filled with people who want to do good. It is ironic that two arenas where you often find ‘do-gooders’ – politics and education, can’t seem to get along. The good that they seek is generally at odds.

Proposition 127 threatens to force schools to divert even more money away from student services in the name of political idealism. Even those arguing that “climate change” is a hoax agree that more renewable energy makes sense. Those who are committing the most money to defeating Prop. 127 are the ones who’ve invested the most in expanding operation of renewable energy in Arizona.  So, why the opposition?

Don Covey

Don Covey

When the government forces the market to operate within artificial constraints it creates damaging costs.  In the case of the renewable energy mandate proposed by Proposition 127, these costs will show up as rate increases.  APS projects that rates will double.  The state’s cooperatives are projecting a 40 percent increase within the first 10 years. Building new generating facilities costs money.

Meanwhile taking generating capacity offline that is still being paid for creates huge costs.  It’s like vacating a house you owe a mortgage on and buying a new house and paying for both. You are now paying twice as much for housing even though you are only living in one house. The old power plants will still be being paid for but won’t be producing power, and we will be adding new renewable facilities and converting some coal plants to systems that can interact with renewables.

Where will the money come from? Higher rates will be necessary. We are OK with that – goes the argument for Prop. 127, because we’re making the world a better place.  But our public schools can’t afford to bear the costs.

Carol Peck

Carol Peck

Some want voters to support a statement in favor of more renewable energy, but more is at stake. A mandate for a massive increase in the use of renewables in a short period of time is a monumental shift to accomplish in just 12 years! Experts aren’t even sure it is feasible. Embedding the mandate in the Arizona Constitution (Sec.2 Article XV) restricts the ability of elected officials on the Corporation Commission to alter or modify it irrespective of the consequence. Common sense be damned.

Those working in public education want to make the world a better place.  That’s why we pursue accountability, rigor, and programs that help students succeed.  Our schools are operating on a razor’s edge. Decades of financial stress due to recession and recovery have crippled our ability to attract and retain teachers, and nothing matters more than quality teachers. What is needed is new revenue to support growing successful innovative public schools. There are proposals that could make Arizona a better place for public school students, but none are currently on the ballot. While waiting for a solution to the revenue question, one thing is clear – we must not put more costly burdens on public schools reducing their effectiveness.

Voting “No” on Proposition 127 won’t stop the expansion of renewable energy in Arizona, but it will protect our schools from more mandates that take money away from classrooms where our children are trying to learn. And, that makes Arizona a better place – for kids and for Arizona’s future.

Don Covey is the former Maricopa County school superintendent and Carol G. Peck is the former National School Superintendent of the Year, affiliates of The Best Public Education In Arizona Foundation. www.lovepublicedaz.org.

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The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.

2 comments

  1. bradley taylor hudson

    We have a planet to save. The newest studies say that even with Prop 127, we will be behind in that regard. Unless one is a “climate denier”, one knows that we don’t have reasonable options to doing something NOW. Mr. Covey’s plea for education is appealing of course, but he does not explain the connection between clean energy and depleted education. Support for clean energy does not have to mean removing support for education. We have enough money to both pay for education and move to clean energy, but because of our history as a Red state, we don’t do either. The solution lies not in the attitude that, since we don’t educate our children, we must also leave them a planet in trouble. ….. The “tax the rich” measure did not even make it to the ballot so that the people could decide. The poor history Arizona has, regarding education financing, is not due so much to “Decades of financial stress” as it is to our origins as a retirement state that neglects children. As Mr. Covey says, we don’t have any ballot measures to help education, but we have one to hurt it further: Prop 305.

  2. Your comments are predicated on some things that I dispute. First, the Corporation Commission consists of “elected officials” in name only. Their campaigns are bought and paid for by the utilities they regulate. We shouldn’t need a “solar team” in the CC. The solar team should be in the legislature, setting energy policy for the whole state. As long as the existing CC is watching the hen house we won’t make progress on solar.

    Secondly, your statement that defeating prop 127 won’t stop the expansion of renewable energy has no basis in fact. Have you tried calling a solar installer lately? SRP won’t work with them. The CC has allowed them to put barriers in the way of residential solar power. It’s irrational for a state endowed with such a valuable resource to put barriers in the way of using it.

    Arizona is ground zero for climate change. Scientists predict that this area will be virtually uninhabitable within 25-50 years. What are we doing to prevent that from happening? If it’s only 20% as bad as the worst predictions, what are we doing to prepare? Arizona can lead in the fight against climate change. We have enough open spaces to provide PV power to half the country. Our state government needs to get out of its own way and let it happen.

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