News Column

House Democrats Urge Brewer to Call Education Special Session

July 14, 2014



PHOENIX, July 14 -- Arizona State House Democrats issued the following news release:

Arizona House Democrats today asked Gov. Jan Brewer to call a special session immediately to pay the $317 million in inflation funding that a superior court judge recently ruled the state owes schools.

"It's crucial that we get this money into our classrooms and fulfill our obligation to the voters before the start of the next school year," House Minority Whip Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 28), said. "Schools can use this money to hire teachers and reduce classroom sizes. The money could also be used to make repairs to buildings and infrastructure that have been put off because education has suffered drastic budget cuts over the years."

Meyer, who serves on the House Education Committee and previously was a member of the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board, added that the court's decision affirms the will of the voters and deserves immediate attention.

"The court ruling makes it clear that the Legislature must respect the will of the voters and cannot make education funding a political football," Meyer said.

In 2000, voters approved Prop 301, which included a provision that required the Legislature to adjust school funding to keep pace with inflation. In recent years, the Republican-controlled Legislature ignored that provision, leaving schools underfunded. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled earlier that the Legislature must comply with the will of the voters and provide inflation funding. However, it asked the superior court to determine the extent of the state's financial obligation. On July 11, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper decided the Legislature will need to pay schools $317 million for the upcoming year and a total of $1.6 billion during the next five years. Still in question is whether the state will need to pay an additional $1.3 billion for inflation costs that the Legislature withheld since 2009.

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 24), said the Legislature should have made funding for education a priority, even during the recession.

"Education and our economy are inextricably linked," Campbell said. "Ensuring Arizona kids have access to a solid education is key to any economic recovery plan and to long-term economic stability. Instead of making education a priority, Republicans in the Legislature favored tax cuts for corporations that haven't benefited our state and have depleted our resources."

Campbell added that to fulfill its obligations, the state should utilize some of the money in the "rainy-day fund" and consider closing wasteful corporate tax loopholes.

"The Republican-controlled Legislature cannot continue to protect special interest tax cuts at the expense of school children," Campbell said. "The courts and the voters have made that clear."

For more information on the state budget impacts of this ruling, go to http://www.azleg.gov/jlbc/K-12InflationFundingLawsuitUpdate.pdf.

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