Time for the AZ Legislature to Stop the Shell Game

In her May 15, 2013 article in the Arizona Republic, Mary Jo Pitzl states: The K-12 system would get an $82 million boost, with school districts free to spend


it as they wish. Brewer wanted more targeted spending, particularly to help schools prepare to meet the stricter academic requirements of the Common Core Standards.”[i]  In reality though, isn’t Senator Biggs’ proposal of $82 million just the amount required to comply with a court ruling on January 15, 2013 that says the Legislature must fully pay for the base education budget as mandated by Proposition 301 in 2000?  The requirement to pay the annual inflation adjustments to the base education-funding formula hasn’t happened in the past three years and the court said it must be paid.[ii]  If so, there is NO boost to our K-12 system, in fact they would just be paid back what the voters approved 12 years ago.

According to Arizona Capitol Reports[iii], schools still face the burden of implementing significant new mandates without the resources to do so. The governor proposed spending $41.5 million to implement Common Core and $20 million for technology updates related to Common Core.  Of course the Governor’s proposal of $41.5 million (which is down from an original of $61.5 million) is a far cry from the estimated actual requirement of $156 million statewide to implement Common Core Standards just for the 2014-2015 school year.  In addition to this unfunded expense, is the requirement to upgrade hardware and broadband capabilities for new curriculum and testing at a cost of approximately $225 million. [iv]  Senator Biggs’ budget does nothing to address this shortfall.

It is no surprise the share of tax dollars that winds up in Arizona classrooms has slid to the lowest level in 11 years.[v]  This is directly attributable to the fact that Arizona leads the nation in cuts to per-pupil spending from 2008 to 2012 – almost 22 percent.[vi]

In my school district, this includes no increase in base level amount, no excess utilities funding, no building renewal funding, capital fund reductions, and reductions to maintenance and operations funding. It also includes a one-time $300,000 sweep from our cash balance and the removal of funding for all-day kindergarten.

The Arizona State Legislature has played a shell game with public education funding for many years and it is way beyond time for it to stop.  These are not only children’s lives we are playing with, but also Arizona’s future.


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