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The funding budget of the University of Arizona includes momentum for 'schools of freedom'

Noah Karvelis of Arizona Educators United is looking for details on the plan proposed by Governor Ducey, as teachers greet lawmakers on the third day of the teachers' strike. David Wallace / The Republic
The Republic |

The three Arizona state universities would get $ 10 million more this year if the Arizona Legislature approves the budget it issued on Monday.

But $ 2 million of that would go to … called "freedom schools," programs at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona focused on free market philosophies and the backing of conservative organizations like the Charles Koch Foundation.

The universities did not ask for additional funds for the freedom schools. Instead, colleges asked for money to pay the tuition costs of the state's students and to cover the rising costs of health insurance.

The proposed budget does not come close to complying with the universities' request for the state to help finance half of the cost of educating undergraduate students in the state, which would require $ 252 million.

Additional funds are not yet approved. The Legislature still needs to approve a budget and then send it to Governor Doug Ducey for his signature.

How the funding is divided

The ASU School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership would get $ 1 million if the budget is approved as proposed. The Center for the Philosophy of Liberty of the UA would also receive $ 1 million. The Liberty Schools are now ready to receive $ 5 million from the state this year.

Of the proposed additional $ 10 million, $ 8 million would go to university funds in general, with ASU receiving $ 4.2 million, UA receiving $ 2.2 million, and Northern Arizona University receiving $ 1.6 million.

ASU would also get $ 250,000 to establish an office in Guanajuato, Mexico, which would promote trade and economic development, the budget documents show.

The budgets of the universities have not recovered from the big cuts during the recession and the subsequent years of economic turmoil.

But the schools of freedom have seen the support of Republican state legislators. In 2016, lawmakers gave schools $ 5 million. Last year, schools earned $ 7 million from the state.

Financing for 'schools of freedom' vs. money for teachers

funds for freedom schools come when thousands of K-12 teachers have left their classrooms and have met for days to get additional money for education.

Lawmakers and Ducey agreed, in principle, to a 20 percent increase for teachers by 2020, but educators have additional demands, which include increases for support staff and a return to pre-recession school funding levels.

SEE ALSO: Teacher salaries: What we know about how Ducey plans to pay a 20 percent increase

Ducey's initial 20 × 2020 plan showed that the universities sacrificed an appropriation of $ 8 million in service for an increase in the payment of teachers.


Gov. Doug Ducey announces on April 12, 2018, a new funding proposal for education that would give Arizona teachers a 9 percent pay raise this year.
Carly Henry |

The vice president of the Arizona Board of Regents, Ron Shoopman, said that the regents are pleased to see that the budget plan now includes the $ 8 million in college funds, which go to Arizona's resident students.

"We appreciate the commitment of our legislators and the dedication of Governor Ducey to prioritize education as the catalyst for economic opportunities in our state, including the university bonding proposal approved last year and the support of our K-12 teachers who teach our children and make a difference in their lives, "said Shoopman.

What the 'schools of freedom' teach

The ASU school has its own curriculum that teaches about American leaders and their philosophies and ideas, the school says on its website. He says that the mission of the school is "to involve students in civic life by researching great works of political, economic, civic and moral thought."

The UA Freedom Center does not have its own curriculum but publishes research and presents speakers on a variety of free market ideas.

"What is needed for societies to liberate their members from oppression and poverty? How is it possible, in a world shaped by previous causes, for people to exercise free will? And what kind of lives? could they release the people they aspire to create on their own? the center wrote on its website.

The UA center also received money from Randy and Ken Kendrick, the owners of the Arizona Diamondbacks who are donors of the Republican Party.

The footnotes show that at least $ 100,000 of the $ 1 million awarded to the ASU Freedom School must be used to support research on the Arizona Constitution and the development of a course on civics and constitutionalism for K-12 students.

University programs supported by Koch have been criticized nationally and locally, as critics claim that conservative donors try to n Influence Higher Education.

Documents revealed that the Charles Koch Foundation influenced the hiring and firing of people at a center that finances at George Mason University in Virginia, the Associated Press reported on Monday.

At the UA, a group called Kochs Off Campus has protested against the school's freedom center. The UA center already offers a course for K-12 students called "ethics, economics and entrepreneurship."

Dem legislator: Let universities decide how to spend money

Rep. Kirsten Engel, Democrat of Tucson, said that the additional money for the schools of freedom has no justification, besides that the state has not been able to reinvest in higher education after the recession.

"I do not understand why we need to have schools funded specifically to publish works on free markets and libertarianism when these are schools of thought that would be taught by our philosophy departments at this time," said Engel.

Engel said he has seen an investigation published by the centers that criticize public schools and government regulation, which he finds concerning.

She thinks that the $ 2 million would be better spent if it were the universities, who could decide the best way to spend it. The $ 8 million in college overhead is not enough, he said.

"I would say that our universities are under stress and that they could use more funds … Our students are paying the price in higher fees and more fees," said Engel.

Republican Legislator: #RedforEd a 'socialist movement'

Additional funding for schools of freedom may have helped some conservative lawmakers join the budget.

Republican Rep. Anthony Kern of Glendale, one of the largest supporters of the Liberty schools in the Legislature, said the centers are designed to provide balance in colleges, which tend to learn toward leftist teachings.


"It does not drive any conservative point of view, it only allows civil discourse," he said.

Most people who oppose schools, including their Democratic colleagues, probably have not set foot in a conference of the school of freedom or classroom, Kern claimed.

He defended the $ 2 million expense in the midst of protests by K-12 teachers, saying that the Legislature and Ducey are doing everything possible to meet the demands of teachers.

The RedForEd movement is not about paying teachers. It is a socialist movement. They continue to change their goals, "said Kern.

He said that the freedom schools themselves have not asked for additional money, but have been pushing to increase state investment in them as a way to balance the points of view on campus.

"As a conservator, I am very grateful to have the opportunity to fund the schools of freedom, and I think it is one of the few things in the budget that I really agree with" , said Kern.


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