I was told months ago by several state legislators that the “window” for settlement negotiations had closed between the state’s school districts and the state of Arizona in the school finance inflation adjustment (Prop. 301) case, Cave Creek v. Ducey, and the case was now back in the hands of the judge.
This appears to have been bad information, or perhaps settlement discussions continued outside of the judicial panel empanelled for court mediated settlement negotiations.
In any event, there is confirmation today that settlement negotiations are at an impasse. Here is the press release from the Arizona Education Association, Education advocates end negotiations on the Prop 301 lawsuit:
Negotiations between the state of Arizona and the plaintiffs in Cave Creek v. Ducey (now Cave Creek v. DeWit) have reached impasse. The Coalition of plaintiff school districts and education organizations, including the Arizona Education Association, engaged in a prolonged effort to settle the dispute, but a settlement could not be reached.
The plaintiffs brought forward this lawsuit in 2010 to challenge the state’s refusal to fund inflation under the voter mandate of Proposition 301. Almost two years ago, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in favor of public schools, ordering the state to fund the Proposition 301 inflation factor for public school funding. These annual cost-of-living adjustments protect education funding from the effects of inflation. To implement the Supreme Court’s order, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper ordered the state to reset the education funding base level. This reset would have added over $300 million to K-12 funding in the current year alone.
“The failure to reach an acceptable settlement is disappointing,” says Arizona Education Association President Andrew F. Morrill. “Our students need immediate support from the state. It’s time our leaders put Arizona and our children first. Arizona has $785 million in state reserves. Governor Ducey should call a special session and demand legislators get this money into our classrooms now. Students are returning to classrooms for a new school year while our state faces historic numbers of teachers leaving the profession due to a lack of resources.”
Arizona ranks last or near the bottom in per-student spending and in average teacher salaries. The Arizona Legislature has refused to fund public education in compliance with the law since 2009, depriving Arizona’s students of over $1 billion in K-12 funding.
Since the settlement talks were confidential, all parties are prohibited by court order from discussing the terms of the negotiations. However, the Coalition members believe that Arizona’s students should be the state’s number one priority and remain committed to settling the inflation lawsuit. The Coalition members remain willing to consider any reasonable option that secures the necessary and required additional funding for Arizona’s public schools.
Presumably this case in now back in the hands of Judge Katherine Cooper who has yet to rule on the “back payments” portion of the judgment owed by the state, which could exceed $1 billion dollars. Stay tuned.