Originally Published: May 5, 2017 6 a.m.
Old patterns keep repeating and it’s beyond silly at this point.
State lawmakers refuse to meet their obligations to fully fund schools.
Schools are forced to sue the state to get the money they are owed.
Courts rule in favor of the schools.
State hems, haws, throws a few dollars at the schools and offers empty words to make the courts happy.
Then repeat, repeat, repeat.
And all this time the only people who are happy about it are the lawyers, who have a nice, steady income at taxpayer expense.
This fight has been taking place since 1994, about the same time the legislature became preoccupied with charter schools. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the state couldn’t pass off the costs on taxpayers of individual school districts, because that would mean wealthy districts could afford it, while lower income ones could not.
That’s exactly what the Supreme Court found unconstitutional 23 years ago.
Chuck Essigs of the Arizona Association of School Business Officials estimates the state has shorted schools more than $2 billion since 2009, according to reporter Howard Fischer.
“Those cuts have never been restored,” said Heidi Vega, spokeswoman for the Arizona School Boards Association said in a prepared statement.
“State leaders have ignored this obligation far too long,” Vega continued. “They have lost this fight once and it is time to step up and adequately fund public schools according to the law.”
Glendale Elementary School District had to close two schools last fall because of structural deficiencies that were a safety risk to children. How bad does it need to get before lawmakers live up to their obligations?
School districts, on average, are receiving about 15 percent of what they were initially told they would receive in the District Additional Assistance program. Charter schools receive 85 percent in the Charter Additional Assistance program.
Is there any question which is the priority of our lawmakers?
Education is expensive. It’s one of the highest expenses any state has in its budget. It’s also a huge investment. We want an educated workforce. We want functional citizens who can go out and get a job and contribute to the economy, not be a drag on it.
We want intelligent voters, if for no other reason than they’ll elect representatives to Phoenix who will quit this insane pattern.
The answer is simple: Clean up unnecessary expenses and waste, consider raising taxes and pursue all other possible revenue sources to fully fund public education. New schools need to be built. Existing schools need work to make them safe for our children. Give teachers a decent salary and the support they need to thrive.
We all would enjoy the benefits of a strong public education system. And those of us who have retired need to remember it was other generations that paid for us to get the education that led to successful lives. It’s our turn to pay for the next generation.