We have to take a trip with Mr. Peabody and Sherman in the WAYBAC machine to 2018 when this case first went to court (filed in 2017). School capital funding case goes to court, Governor Ducey only offers pennies on the dollar of what is actually owed:
The other day I pointed out that Governor Doug Ducey, as well as reporters and pundits, were not discussing the lawsuit filed last year by Arizona school districts for being short-changed by our lawless Tea-Publican legislature on capital funding. Arizona schools to sue state over funding – again:
A year after voters passed Prop. 123 to resolve a $1.6 billion lawsuit over school funding, Arizona school districts are again taking the governor and Legislature to court.
And this lawsuit is even larger.
The wheels of justice turn slowly, especially with a litigious Arizona Legislature which engages in undue delay and bad faith. The original case actually goes all the way back to 1994.
This case is again back before a judge. Howard Fischer reports, Arizona government, schools spar in court over funding requirements:
The state wants a judge to throw out a 5-year-old lawsuit charging that lawmakers are not living up to their constitutional and court-ordered obligation to adequately fund new schools and repair existing ones.
Hanging in the balance is whether lawmakers will be ordered once again to fix the system, as they were several times since 1994 — and if they will potentially have to come up with billions of new dollars.
At a hearing Wednesday, lawyers for the state told a Maricopa County judge there have been “drastic system changes’’ in funding since the lawsuit was filed in 2017 by school districts and education advocates challenging the system of who gets money. The state’s lawyers pointed to infusions of cash and alterations to the policies that govern when a district is entitled to state dollars for a new school.
The question of how schools are funded should be left to the elected legislators, Brett Johnson, lead attorney for the state, told Superior Court Judge Daniel Martin. He said lawmakers have already made changes, and they need “flexibility’’ to make future “policy adjustments.’’
Note: The Supreme Court of other states have ordered the state legislature to comply with the provisions of the state constitution to fund public education. These are persuasive precedents from other states which refute this authoritarian contention. More importantly, the Arizona Supreme Court ordered the Arizona legislature to fix the funding system in 1994, the basis for this lawsuit. The Arizona legislature has been defying the Court and the Arizona Constitution ever since.
“Plaintiffs ask this court for a political policy opinion on whether the legislature might devise a ‘better’ system to fund the capital expenditures of K-12 public schools,’’ Johnson wrote in court filings.
He said those plaintiffs, including not just school districts but also the Arizona School Boards Association and the Arizona Education Association, are asking Martin to intercede because “they have not succeeded in achieving all of their policy objectives through the traditional legislative process.’’
I’m sorry, but has this fool not read the Arizona Supreme Court decision in Roosevelt Elementary School District No. 66, et. al. v. Bishop, 179 Ariz. 233, 877 P.2d 806 (1994)? Holding:
We therefore reverse the judgment of the superior court and remand the case for entry of judgment declaring that art. XI, § 1 of the Arizona Constitution requires the legislature to enact appropriate laws to finance education in the public schools in a way that does not itself create substantial disparities among schools, communities or districts. Because the present scheme is the source of these disparities, it is not in compliance with art. XI, § 1. The trial court shall retain jurisdiction to determine whether, within a reasonable time, legislative action has been taken.
[T]he schools say the problems are real — and that the Arizona Constitution requires lawmakers to fix them.
“The undisputed evidence shows that the state does not provide sufficient capital funding to ensure that no district falls below the state’s facility standards,’’ Danny Adelman, an attorney for the schools, told the judge.
He wants Martin to immediately direct lawmakers to craft a system that is constitutional — which is what the Arizona Supreme Court first ordered in 1994.
Under the system in place at that time, school districts raised and borrowed money for new construction and repairs solely through local property taxes.
That year the justices concluded the method of funding schools violated state constitutional requirements for a “general and uniform’’ school system. They said it created illegal disparities between rich districts and poor ones.
“Some districts have schoolhouses that are unsafe, unhealthy and in violation of building, fire and safety codes,’’ wrote Justice Frederick Martone for the high court. “There are schools without libraries, science laboratories, computer rooms, art programs, gymnasiums and auditoriums.’’
At the same time, Martone said, “there are schools with indoor swimming pools, a domed stadium, science laboratories, television studios, well-stocked libraries, satellite dishes and expensive computer systems.’’
Several interim solutions proposed by the Republican-controlled Legislature were rejected by the court.
Lawmakers eventually created the School Facilities Board, which was supposed to pick up every district’s construction needs.
But lawmakers never came up with a new source of revenue to pay the potential $300 million annual price tag, instead absorbing the cost into the state’s general fund.
That, however, worked only when the economy was good and revenues were increasing. When the Great Recession hit and state tax collections tanked, one of the casualties was money for the board.
The funding formula was replaced by a grant process. But challengers, in filing suit in 2017, said districts that needed schools or major repairs but couldn’t wait for a grant once again had to turn to their local voters for bond approval, the very system the Supreme Court previously found illegal.
There have been adjustments since, including one instituted by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. It says districts no longer need to wait until schools actually are overcrowded to get funding to start building new ones.
But Adelman said the state is still not providing all the funds necessary to construct new schools and provide a regular flow of dollars for maintenance and major repairs, such as saving up for a new roof.
Schools “must wait for their systems to fail’’ before getting financial help, their lawyers said — or rely on local tax dollars, a system that is no better than what the justices voided 28 years ago.
Attorney Colin Ahler who also represents the state, said that’s not what the record shows, however.
He also said the law requires only that schools get enough to fund “minimum guidelines,’’ not meet some higher standard.
But Adelman said the state isn’t even doing that.
“Districts without are being left behind (with) failing HVACs, failing facilities, water infiltration, dilapidated foundations, sinkholes for years, portables in Quartzsite that were virtually condemned for years, undrinkable water,’’ he said.
“Only districts with sufficient local wealth (and supportive voters) can consistently maintain their facilities without falling below standards,’’ Adelman wrote in court filings. “And districts without local wealth are left behind.’’
None of this would be an issue if the state picked up the cost of new schools. Adelman told Martin that the Supreme Court in its 1994 ruling “made clear that the financing of public education in Arizona is the responsibility of the state, not school districts.’’
“The state cannot attempt to pawn off its constitutional obligations on the districts,’’ he wrote in court filings.
There’s another reason the state cannot shift the burden to local taxpayers, Adelman said: All districts are not created equal.
Some have large amounts of commercial and industrial property which contribute more to the tax base than residential property. But it is the districts with residential properties that have the most students.
For example, Peoria Unified School District has relatively low property wealth compared to the number of students it educates, said Joshua Bendor, another attorney for the plaintiffs.
“To raise a given amount per pupil through bonds, Peoria must impose a tax rate almost five times greater than the rate Scottsdale Unified School District would need to impose to raise that same amount of money per pupil, and almost 15 times greater than the rate the Sedona-Oak Creek Unified School District would need to impose,’’ Bendor said. “The state has the burden of explaining why it is reasonable for some taxpayers to pay tax rates that are 15 times more than their fellow citizens in other school districts to meet the school’s basic capital needs.’’
That disparity, he said, is precisely the issue the Supreme Court addressed in 1994.
There is nothing in the record showing a meaningful relationship between a district’s property wealth and its capital needs, Bendor said.
But William Richards, who represents Republican legislative leaders, told Martin that what’s missing from the schools’ arguments is proof of harm from the funding formula. [Are you effin’ kidding me?!]
“The plaintiffs have not made any showing at all that a single district actually failed to provide the educational services and curriculum delivery required by the state minimum academic standards to a single actual student,’’ he said.
Everything beyond that, he said, is irrelevant.
“The Legislature is not required to fund all the capital facilities each district chooses to acquire,’’ Richards said. “Nor is it required to ensure that every district has exactly the same facilities and capital resources.’’
The judge did not indicate when he expects to rule.
Like I said, this case actually goes all the way back to 1994. The Republican-controlled Arizona Legislature has been shortchanging school districts and Arizona’s children for decades.
Jim Small writes at the Arizona Mirror, Here’s how much Republican lawmakers hate spending on schools:
Republicans hate the idea of spending more on public schools even more than they love the billions of dollars in tax cuts they approved last year.
That’s the crystal clear message coming from GOP leaders in the Arizona Legislature, where there’s now a move afoot to abandon all pretense of governing instead of using a small portion of the record-busting budget surplus to increase education spending.
Arizona consistently ranks near last on per-student spending, and it’s no secret that Republican legislators as a general rule are diametrically opposed to spending money to change that. And that’s why spending has only increased by 5% over the last 15 years when controlling for inflation, and why Arizona continues to rank 48th or 49th in metrics like per-student funding and teacher pay.
"Republicans would crawl over broken glass to swim in a pool of lemon juice if it meant the wealthy could keep more money in their pockets. But increasing education funding to save tax cuts? No chance."
— Arizona Mirror (@ArizonaMirror) April 13, 2022
Voters disagree, and for decades have regularly used the ballot box to increase school spending against the wishes of the Republicans who have controlled the legislature since the 1960s. The latest was in 2020, when they approved a modest tax increase on the wealthiest Arizonans to increase teacher pay and pump about $900 million a year into our public schools.
Republican lawmakers and their allies immediately set about working to thwart the will of the voters, and they largely succeeded. The voter-approved Invest in Education Act was ruled unconstitutional last month, and the Arizona Supreme Court will almost certainly uphold that decision.
Republican lawmakers and Gov. Doug Ducey — who also despises that voters taxed him and his rich friends to lift Arizona teachers out of 50th place — spent last year crafting ways to ensure that the state’s millionaires won’t have to pay a cent more in income taxes. They pledged to use existing tax dollars to pay for the voter-approved tax, and then cut their taxes as part of the largest income tax cut in state history.
Though they sold the tax cuts as helping every Arizonan, it doesn’t take a math whiz to understand who really benefits: It offers a whopping $1 in tax relief to low-income families but $350,000 to those making over $5 million. The typical Arizona family would save about $42 a year.
Teachers and education groups immediately set about mounting a [referendum] campaign to block the tax cuts — sometimes referred to as a “people’s veto,” the state Constitution lets voters decide the fate of new laws if enough signatures protesting a law are filed within 90 days of the legislature ending its work for the year.
The Invest in Arizona campaign did just that, putting the tax cuts on hold until voters have their say in November.
Desperate to avoid a public vote on tax cuts that make the rich so very much richer, Republicans have been scheming to skirt that vote since it qualified for the ballot. The plan is simple: Pass a bill that repeals the tax cuts approved last year and replaces them with nearly identical (but maybe larger!) tax cuts. The result would be canceling the vote on this year’s ballot and forcing Invest in Arizona to send the newly minted 2022 tax cuts to the 2024 ballot. [Bad faith.]
But there’s a snag, and his name is Sen. Paul Boyer. The Glendale Republican has long understood the power that his single vote has, particularly when Republicans hold a majority by only a single vote. Boyer, who is retiring after this year, says he’s happy to repeal-and-replace the tax cuts — but only if legislators do what voters demanded and add $900 million to school funding.
The state literally has more money than it knows what to do with: a $5.3 billion surplus, which equates to more than 40% of this year’s spending. Nearly $1.6 billion of that extra money will be collected in future years, so permanently adding $900 million to school funding — about $900 per Arizona student — is both easy and fiscally responsible.
Read between the lines here: They are *nowhere near a budget deal* so some GOP want to wave a white flag and give up on the ONE JOB they're required to do.
Campaigning to keep their power is more important than actually governing. You can almost see the campaign attacks now. https://t.co/vVwd5a5p8Y
— Jim Small (@JimSmall) April 11, 2022
That’s apparently too much for some Republicans, who have decided the best strategy is to wave a white flag on the legislative session and high tail it out of the Capitol in order to hit the campaign trail. The House of Representatives on Monday paved the way to pass a spending plan that maintains current levels of government instead of hammering out a real budget.
Passing a budget in stages like this would be unusual. But it would ensure they've got some kind of budget in place if they can't get holdouts (i.e. @PaulDBoyer) on board for the bigger stuff. They could cut their losses and sine die without staying in session until late June. https://t.co/T6NkgUb0PB
— Jeremy Duda (@jeremyduda) April 11, 2022
Because they can’t negotiate within their own party, they want to do nothing with the unprecedented surplus. Campaigning to keep their power is more important than actually governing.
But doing so comes with a huge cost: If Republicans don’t add $900 million to school funding, Boyer won’t vote to cancel the November election on the tax cuts or implement new (and bigger) ones.
Republicans love to cut taxes the way that my eight-year-old loves to watch YouTube videos. They’d crawl over broken glass to swim in a pool of lemon juice if it meant the wealthy could keep more money in their pockets.
But lifting Arizona to 47th in per-pupil spending? Republicans would do anything for tax cuts, but they won’t do that.
Every lawless Republican state legislator needs to be removed from office. These authoritarian Republicans defy the Arizona Constitution, the courts, and the voters of this state, whom they despise as much as they despise public education and Arizona’s children. Enough abuse of power is enough. Wake the hell up people!