Budget, tax cuts led teachers to threaten strike

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Wells says state leaders never really got serious about restoring education funding, even as the economy improved. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Wells says state leaders never really got serious about restoring education funding, even as the economy improved. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The last big education budget cut occurred in 2015, which was Gov. Doug Ducey's first year in office. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The last big education budget cut occurred in 2015, which was Gov. Doug Ducey's first year in office. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
"We're in a pretty significant, tight austerity budget situation and it's made it really hard to fund education the way it ought to be funded," said Wells. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) "We're in a pretty significant, tight austerity budget situation and it's made it really hard to fund education the way it ought to be funded," said Wells. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
When adjusted for inflation, school funding remains below the 2009 levels, according to budget stats from the Joint Legislative Budget Staff at the Arizona legislature. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) When adjusted for inflation, school funding remains below the 2009 levels, according to budget stats from the Joint Legislative Budget Staff at the Arizona legislature. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

It was like a train wreck in slow-motion. The series of events that led to Thursday's threatened state-wide teacher "walkout" were a decade in the making. They started with the Great Recession and ended with Gov. Doug Ducey's offer of a 1 percent pay raise.

[RELATED: Arizona teachers vote to walk out on Thursday, April 26 over education funding]

In 2009, state lawmakers had little choice but to slash education spending. No state agency was immune from the dwindling tax receipts that resulted from the bursting housing bubble, stock market crash and massive job losses that were clobbering the economy.

Three years later, state spending on schools was still dropping, from $4,427 per student in 2009 to $3,814 in 2012.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Schools in crisis]

"We also used to do school construction and building renewal funds and that's been pretty much eliminated," said Dave Wells, who is the research director at the Grand Canyon Institute, which is a non-partisan think tank that provides research on education issues.

[READ MORE: Arizona school districts release plans for teacher walk out]

Wells says state leaders never really got serious about restoring education funding, even as the economy improved. What lawmakers did do was continue to cut taxes for corporations and special interests.

[RELATED: 'Stay on the job!' AZ school superintendent urges teachers not to strike]

The last big education budget cut occurred in 2015, which was Gov. Doug Ducey's first year in office. Lawmakers cut $123 million from non-classroom school funding. Since then, they have increased the amount of education spending, but they have also added tax cuts. Some were aimed at families with children in private school. Others directed to owners of private planes, organizers of sporting events and owners of fine art.

[RELATED: Exodus of teachers from Arizona classrooms]

Democrats estimate the tax cuts enacted since 2015 will cost the state about $87 million per year for the next three years.

"We're in a pretty significant, tight austerity budget situation and it's made it really hard to fund education the way it ought to be funded," said Wells.

When adjusted for inflation, school funding remains below the 2009 levels, according to budget stats from the Joint Legislative Budget Staff at the Arizona legislature. You can find those statistics here.

[POLL: Would you support a tax increase to fund teacher salaries?]

The result is that public school teachers have voted in favor of a statewide walkout, which is set for Thursday. Meantime, Gov. Doug Ducey is pushing lawmakers to vote for his plan to give teachers a 20 percent raise over three years.

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Morgan  LoewMorgan Loew is an investigative reporter at CBS 5 News. His career has taken him to every corner of the state, lots of corners in the United States, and some far-flung corners of the globe.

Click to learn more about Morgan .

Morgan Loew
CBS 5 Investigates

Morgan’s past assignments include covering the invasion of Iraq, human smuggling in Mexico, vigilantes on the border and Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County. His reports have appeared or been featured on CBS News, CNN, NBC News, MSNBC and NPR.

Morgan’s peers have recognized his work with 11 Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards, two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for investigative reporting, an SPJ First Amendment Award, and a commendation from the Humane Society of the United States. In October 2016, Morgan was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Silver Circle in recognition of 25 years of contribution to the television industry in Arizona.

Morgan is graduate of the University of Arizona journalism school and Concord Law School at Purdue University Global. He is the president of the Arizona First Amendment Coalition and teaches media law and TV news reporting at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

When he’s not out looking for the next big news story, Morgan enjoys hiking, camping, cheering for the Arizona Wildcats and spending time with his family at their southern Arizona ranch.

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