Enhanced Education Funding Passes the Arizona Legislature

Last night in a Special Session called by Governor Doug Ducey, we passed a set of three bills designed to enhance K-12 school funding.  The move has not been without controversy, caused primarily by the interpretation of the word “or” by a lower court, activist judge, who substituted the plain meaning of the word for that of another.  The substitution of definitions, resulted in a financial burden that would have bankrupted the state.

Webster’s Dictionary, recognized by K-12 school systems, universities, colleges and yes, even law schools, as the authoritative source for word definitions, defines “or” as “used as a function word to indicate an alternative”, where “and” is specifically no an alternative but “added to, plus, in addition to”.  The Cave Creek School District sued Treasured Dewit over inflation funding called for by Prop 301, that was driven by seriously declining economic conditions in Arizona and all across the United States during 2008 & 2009.

We’ve been looking for ways to increase the resources for classrooms in Arizona without raising taxes.  At the same time, for years that important policy discussion has been mired in a legal dispute over the precise amount of inflation that should be paid each year in the state budget. The agreement we voted to approve puts significantly more financial resources into K-12 education—$ 3.5 billion dollars over 10 years—without raising taxes.

The legal questions remaining in the lawsuit could have taken months, or even years to resolve. Instead of fighting it out in the Courts, both sides in the lawsuit agreed to a specific “base level” (that is the base amount used to calculate inflation funding). This means the dollars can start flowing to where they are needed, classrooms much sooner And without additional costs related to litigation.

At the same time, this measure protects our State’s financial standing, by giving flexibility to lawmakers and the governor in the event that our economy is subjected to a serious recession—like the one that crippled the State in 2008 and 2009.

During serious economic downturns Arizona can take a pause in providing inflation payments, and then resume when the economy rebounds. That is flexibility that would have made all the difference in 2009. In fact, the lawsuit would have never occurred.

I’m confident that voters want to fund education as generously as possible. But, they also want to be financially responsible, and they expect results. In the HCR 2001, the voters will be asked to increase the distribution to K-12 education from State Land Trust investment proceeds. These dollars will be part of funding the inflation solution.  We must begin to see improved educational outcomes, after all we have seen dramatic spending increases over the last 15 years, without moving the needle on academic performance.

While the “go to” Democrat talking point has been taken away from them, we have truly demonstrated that we are working for the children, not just talking about it.  I am also pleased to see that we have protected the Arizona Constitution and the separation of powers that make our republican form of government work.

See the Majority Leaders full remarks here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTtNRRhNPes&feature=youtu.be

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