A ruling by Arizona Superior Court Judge Kathleen Cooper requires the State of Arizona to adjust base level funding for public education to reflect inflationary increases the Arizona Legislature has not provided to public schools for the past five years as mandated by law.
The decision, issued on July 11, 2014, will provide a minimum of close to $300 million to schools in the next fiscal year.
“This is a significant mark in time for Arizona public education as it restores funding to a level that reflects five lost years of inflationary increases,” said Tim Ogle, executive director of the Arizona School Boards Association. “The ruling also is a directive that the law can’t be ignored and that our students and teachers won’t lose any more ground.”
The base level is one of the major factors in the state funding formula for pubic schools.
The court also agreed in principle with plaintiffs – a group of education organizations led by the Arizona School Boards Association, Arizona Education Association and the Arizona Association of School Business Officials – that public schools should have received close to $1 billion in additional funding to account for inflation over the past five years.
A call for an evidentiary hearing to determine how the state must respond to the back pay issue will be held on July 18.
“We have an entire cohort of early learners, beginning with the children who entered kindergarten in 2010 and are now entering fourth grade, who have never been in a properly funded classroom. Today’s ruling won’t make up for that,” Ogle said. “What it will do is provide necessary relief to schools that have experienced some of the most extreme budget cuts in the nation over the past five years.”
Under the court’s decision the base level without teacher comp for the 2013- 2014 school year should have been $3559.62 and the base level for future years would adjust this number by inflation, said Chuck Essigs, director of governmental relations for Arizona Association of School Business Officials.
“We certainly hope it will also ensure that, going forward, the Legislature complies with the law and the will of the tens of thousands of Arizona citizens who voted into law Prop. 301 and its requirement to annually provide small funding increases to account for inflation,” Ogle said.