A new plan has been unveiled by Republican legislative leaders in Arizona to offer schools in the state an additional $500 million each year for the next 10 years.
The plan comes at the same time as a lawsuit pertaining to education funding, filed by educators, has reached an impasse. Those same educators, along with Democratic legislators, are already criticizing the proposal.
The Arizona Court of Appeals recently restarted legal proceedings for the 2010 lawsuit in which educators argue that the state did not offer district and charter K-12 schools in the state a fully-funded formula during the Great Recession. The case had been put on hold for the past seven months as both sides tried to come to an agreement. However, the two parties admitted last week that none could be reached.
Because of this, the Legislature once again owes schools in the state an extra $331 million each year to take effect immediately. However, the Legislature is appealing the order and is seeking to have any and all payments put on hold until a decision can be made.
School officials added that $1.3 billion in back payments is owed to schools by the state. No ruling has been made yet concerning that request.
“What we are trying to do is move forward a proposal that we think really provides significant short- and long-term K-12 funding increases,” said Senate President Andy Biggs. “On average, it would mean $500 million a year for a 10-year period … and would not require an increase in taxes.”
The proposal suggests taking funds from the state’s First Things First program. About $125 million goes to the program each year from the tobacco settlement for early childhood education programs. Voter approval would be necessary for this to happen.
The plan also suggests an increase of 1.6% each year for inflation on top of the $74 million per year approved for schools by the Legislature for this fiscal year. An additional $100 million would be offered to schools coming from revenue from the last fiscal year that was higher than anticipated, writes Alia Beard Rau for AZ Central.
The plan also calls for an increase to funding from the state land trust’s permanent fund, the majority of which already benefits K-12 schools. Doing so would involve voter approval and possibly congressional approval as well.
“This is a chance to move $5 billion into K-12 education without raising taxes,” Biggs said. “That’s a whole lot of money, it’s bold and it’s innovative.”