by David Safier
Let's begin this story by recognizing that Arizona has something like a $600 million surplus right now, and lots of legislators say some of the extra money could go toward boosting education funding. Let's add that Arizona, already at the bottom of per student funding, cut more from its school budgets than any other state over the past 5 years — around 21%.
The state Court of Appeals just ruled unanimously that the lege was in the wrong when it refused to raise school budgets to account for inflation. Republicans insisted a 2000 ballot initiative requiring them to make the increases for inflation didn't really say that. Except, according to the courts, it did.
Over the past two years, the illegal budgeting decision cost schools between $189 to $250 million. But the court says the state doesn't have to come up with that money. It just has to honor the inflationary increases in the future — about $82 million this year.
Howls are coming from Republicans. Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma:
"If they can explain to me where we find that money or where we can get it, that should be part of their responsibility."
From the $600 million surplus, Don. Remember the surplus?
Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, worries about where the money is coming from as well, saying raising taxes is not an option. Remember the surplus, John?
AG Tom Horne, predictably, plans to appeal the decision to the AZ Supreme Court. Horne, if you'll remember, was Ed Supe a few years back.
Brewer (who, ironically, is one of the few Republican elected officials who has taken a few steps back from complete batshit craziness) says she wants to raise funding for schools. The reaction to the court ruling shows even Brewer's meager funding requests will be fought by Republicans.
There's another issue here. Republicans want to tie all education funding increases to school progress. Translation: Give money to schools serving high income families where students perform well on state tests simply because of their economic status, then slip a few dollars to the occasional schools serving low income families that somehow manage to achieve better-than-expected test results. They hate the idea of putting more money in schools where the students need it the most. "Let them eat musty old textbooks in overcrowded classrooms. And while we're at it, let them go to the emergency room if they have the gall to get sick. It's more than they deserve."