Arizona Public Schools Want $330 Million in State Aid Restored

Jan 22, 2014

Public schools want a judge to force the state to restore at least $330 million state aid — what it should have been had the governor and lawmakers not ignored the law in the first place. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer explains.

The Arizona State Capitol.

A 2000 voter-approved law requires annual adjustments in state aid to schools to account for inflation. But, in 2010 the governor and lawmakers refused, saying they could not afford it. The state Supreme Court ruled last year that move was illegal. And, inflation adjustments have restarted. But, in legal papers filed Tuesday, attorney Don Peters said the adjustments should take place from what the base would have been had the state followed the law all along. And that means an immediate $330 million boost. Rep. John Kavanagh who chairs the House Appropriations Committee said he does not see how that could happen.

“We don’t have $300 million right now. It creates unbelievable problems,” Kavanagh said.

But, Peters said that’s not the fault of the schools. He said voters, in approving a sales tax hike in 2000, were clear they want aid to schools to keep pace with inflation. And he disputed Kavanagh’s characterization of the state’s inability to provide the dollars owed to schools.

“They probably don’t have the money to do this and do everything else that needs doing. But we can’t solve that problem. And if they don't have all the money to do all that needs doing, they probably ought to increase revenues,” Peters said.

Kavanagh said he wants to consult with legislative attorneys before deciding whether a new court fight is worth the time and cost.