After a tough budget year, many in the political and education community believe that additional funding is needed in Arizona’s K-12 school system. The biggest issue it seems will be how best to address the monetary problems facing the school system.
Settlement talks between Arizona public school districts and the Legislature regarding the K-12 lawsuit came to a deadlock. The Court of Appeals has lifted its stay on legal judgments, and the court is now able to proceed with ruling on the plaintiffs’ $330 million adjustment request along with $1.3 billion in back payments be paid to the school districts.
Also looming are the scheduled FY 2017 funding cuts to Career and Technical Education (CTE) and the Joint Technological Education Districts (JTEDs). Through the Chamber’s Phoenix Forward business inquiries, workforce leads as the number one concern among businesses. These programs provide a vital path to the workforce for many workers and the business community needs to work together to avoid harm in these critical areas.
House Speaker David Gowan and Senate President Andy Biggs released their proposal to place additional money into classrooms by using four revenue streams to infuse $5 billion in new money over the next 10 years. This would be done without raising taxes and instead focus on supplementing the annual basic state aid which began in the last budget process, a new increase to annual basic state aid, a partial shift of money from the state’s First Things First program, and a plan to use increased earnings from the state trust land.
According to Biggs and Gowan, these sources will bring $500 million in new money to classrooms in the first year alone.
Within the same week, Representative Sonny Borrelli announced a proposal to immediately increase K-12 base funding and mandate that all public schools offer additional classroom time for kindergarteners. Borelli stated that it is time to resolve the education funding lawsuit while keeping the commitment not to raise taxes. His proposal increases per-pupil, base-education funding by an additional $262 million and will require schools to offer full-day kindergarten.
These announcements come in addition to Gov. Doug Ducey’s Land Trust Plan to tap the State Land Trust to infuse more money into K-12 classrooms, equaling close to $2 billion over the next decade. In addition, late last week, Superintendent Diane Douglas called for the immediate infusion of $400 million into the school system to aid classrooms.
As you can see, the challenges are great, but so are the ideas. The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce looks forward to working with stakeholders in the coming weeks on addressing these critical needs.