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Mon, Jan. 20

Ducey to ask for more school dollars

Gov. Doug Ducey
Capitol Media Services file

Gov. Doug Ducey

PHOENIX (AP) — A panel Gov. Doug Ducey charged with examining ways to improve and simplify public education financing issued a report that recommends a complete overhaul of K-12 school funding.

The panel was clear school funding in Arizona is inadequate.

The reports contains 12 major recommendations from the Classrooms First Initiative Council, starting with replacing the current K-12 school funding method with a single simplified formula for all public schools and allocating funds using a lump-sum formula. The council also recommends consolidating property tax rates and reducing reliance on property tax overrides.

Another key recommendation is an across-the-board teacher salary increase to address the shortage of classroom instructors, boosting pay differentials for teachers in rural schools, expanding teacher loan forgiveness programs and streamlining certification requirements.

Ducey told reporters that he will ask for additional money for schools in the budget proposal he releases next month, but he did not specify how much.

The state spends about $4 billion in general fund money a year on K-12 schools, a huge chunk of the current $9.6 billion spending plan.

Local property taxes and federal funding boosts that total to nearly $10 billion. Still, Arizona schools are among the lowest-funded in the nation on a per-pupil basis.

The report noted it did address three other major school funding issues: the 2020 expiration of a voter-approved sales tax that provides about $450 million a year for schools; major cuts in funding for school construction and other capitol projects; and what happens when a boost in state trust land revenue outlays approved by voters this year expires in a decade.

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