The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported last year that “State support for students at Arizona’s three public universities has fallen by 53.8 percent since 2008, more than three times the national decline over the same period, according to a new report.” Arizona cuts to college student support still among steepest in nation. “Arizona’s 53.8 percent reduction was largest in the nation.”
The Arizona Board of Regents, forced to deal with our lawless Tea-Publican legislature’s abject failure to meet its constitutionally mandated duty to support public education, had to raise tuition and fees at the state’s universities in order to maintain operations and to keep the doors open:
Article XI, Section 6: The Arizona Constitution mandates a “system of common schools” that are “open to all pupils” and are “as nearly free as possible.”
Article IX, Section 3: The Arizona Constitution also mandates “(T)he Legislature shall provide by law for an annual tax sufficient, with other sources of revenue, to defray the necessary ordinary expenses of the state . . . “
Article XI, Section 10: The Arizona Constitution also mandates “taxation” to “insure proper maintenance of all state educational institutions.”
When Doug Ducey ran against Fred Duval for governor four years ago, rather than focus on the lawlessness of our Tea-Publican legislature, Ducey and his GOP allies built a campaign around blaming the Arizona Board of Regents, former regent Fred Duval in particular, for skyrocketing tuition at the state’s universities. GOP ad blasts DuVal for tuition hikes.
It was perhaps the single most dishonest misdirection campaign ever run in the state of Arizona. Unfortunately, it succeeded with Arizona’s low-information voters.
Enter Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who last year filed a lawsuit to maintain the fiction that the Arizona Board of Regents was the culprit for skyrocketing tuition at the state’s universities, rather than our lawless Tea-Publican legislature. I posted at the time, AG Mark Brnovich creates a ‘straw man’ for our lawless Tea-Publican legislature on higher ed funding:
Enter Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich to create a “straw man” foil for our lawless Tea-Publican legislature and to distract and misdirect attention from the reduction in tax revenue side to focus on the rising tuition cost side (to offset the loss of tax revenue). The goal is to muddy the waters ahead of an election year.
This shameless P.R. stunt by AG Brnovich was rejected by the Superior Court last week. AG lawsuit against regents dismissed:
Attorney General Mark Brnovich has no legal right to challenge the tuition the Arizona Board of Regents sets for the state’s three universities – or even the policies used to come up with those numbers, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Connie Contes decided today.
In a brief ruling, the judge accepted arguments by attorneys for ABOR that Brnovich can file lawsuits only when he has specific legislative authority or permission of the governor. In this case, Contes concluded, he had neither.
More to the point, he is unlikely to get the go-ahead from Gov. Doug Ducy to challenge the tuition hikes. While Ducey won office in 2014 at least in part on blaming Democrat Fred DuVal for increasing the cost of going to state-run universities, the governor has since told Capitol Media Services he believes “our universities are accessible and affordable.”
Gov. Ducey is shamelessly hypocritical.
In filing suit, he said tuition and mandatory fees at Arizona State University are 315 percent higher than they were in the 2002-2003 school year. That figure is 325 percent for Northern Arizona University and 370 percent for the main campus of the University of Arizona.
“In contrast to the increases in tuition, the consumer price index has increased only 36 percent over the same period,” Brnovich argued. And he said even if public universities are held to a different standard, what’s happened in Arizona outstrips the national average tuition increase for similar schools of slightly more than 19 percent.
But the heart of the challenge is Brnovich’s argument that the Board of Regents sets tuition not based on the actual cost of furnishing instruction — what he said is the constitutional touchstone — but also includes “a substantial subsidy for other university pursuits.”
All that is irrelevant, Contes concluded, since he has no right to sue.
An appeal is likely. But even if Brnovich wins that argument, he faces other legal hurdles that Contes did not consider, including the contention by the universities that the issue of what is appropriate tuition is a “political question” beyond the reach of the courts.
This would be the political question doctrine, in which the courts refuse to decide because it properly belongs to the decision-making authority of elected officials.
If Brnovich wants to sue over university tuition, he should have sued our lawless Tea-Publican legislature and governor for their abject failure to meet the constitutionally mandated duty to support public education under the constitutional provisions above.
But Brnovich won’t do this because IOKIYAR.