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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : opinions : editorials July 22, 2014


7/13/2014 10:31:00 AM
Editorial: Court's ruling does not mean check is in the mail for local school districts

For at least five years now, school districts in Arizona and their local taxpayers have had to make up the difference in funding formerly provided by the state.

In 2000, Arizona voters gave the go-ahead requiring the state to increase aid to public schools each year to compensate for inflation.

In response to that voter mandate, Gov. Jan Brewer and the Republican-controlled Legislature did as they pleased, and schools throughout Arizona have been shortchanged exponentially every year.

What the state did was wrong, and that blatant disregard of a voter mandate was made right Friday when Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper ordered the state to increase education funding by $316 million.

The court order could amount to potentially $2.9 billion over five years to make up for aid to schools that was illegally withheld.

The state's argument for shortchanging the schools was that the recession that hit Arizona so severely simply made it too much of a burden to follow the voters' mandate.

To which the judge replied: "Cost does not defeat jurisdiction.'

It's a powerful statement. In essence, the judge said the ultimate government authority is the voice of the voters. That voice, the judge opined, trumps the will of the legislative and executive branches of government.

Now, it will be interesting to see if Arizona's legislative and executive branches believe they have the authority to trump an order of the judicial branch.

Certainly, this order does not send the message to local school districts that a check is in the mail to make up for five years of short-change funding.

Nor does it send the message to school districts with bond and override measures before voters that they can scrap those plans.

There is no immediate guarantee the state is going to come through with these funds, no matter what the court says.

The Superior Court ruling can be appealed and that could take months or years before the issue is legally resolved.

Or, the Legislature could ignore the court's order, kind of like it ignored the original mandate from the voters.

It would be nice if the state would simply do the right thing and correct the course of education funding in Arizona, and do it now.

That, however, is probably too much to expect.

Related Stories:
• State ordered to pay schools $300 million - now


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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, July 18, 2014
Article comment by: Now, now, Mr. Voice of the Verde Independent

Let's give credit where it's due. This was a brilliant move on the part of Maricopa County AG Bill "The Weasel" Montgomery.

Yes, a first year law student could have won on the grounds Prop. 301 was intended to off-set inflation. But... By losing in Maricopa County Superior Court, The Weasel shifted the focus of this election cycle from individual qualifications for office to fundamental state funding philosophies.

Evil though it is, you have to applaud a perfectly executed coup d'etat.

On this battlefield, few Democrats can win. Which, on the one hand, makes it easier for Independents to throw their weight behind Mark Brnovich. In the Superintendent of Public Education race, however-- David Garcia has already made school financing the linchpin of his campaign, and now there's nothing Independents can do to help him. With the legislature's control of the purse strings breached, Diane Douglas can win the General Election.

Sort of blows the reason for filing that lawsuit, doesn't it? Not to mention knocking the wind out of premature Capitol Bond issues.

ibs


Posted: Monday, July 14, 2014
Article comment by: Tom Babbitt

It does mean that the people of Arizona have been robbed. Local districts have been squeezing the population for every nickle to pay for shortcomings that we have already paid for.

Posted: Monday, July 14, 2014
Article comment by: two cents

I bet Tom and Jan are doing everything they can to keep that money diverted and hidden away to secure there own retirements. Sorry it seems I may be blaming just two people when the Greed is across the board. Funny thing about greed it is usually the wealthiest that are the greediest.

Sorry kids, special interest groups, super paks, and "special projects" already have that money and they are already fighting tooth and nail to keep it.




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