Arizona Public Schools May Settle State Funding Lawsuit

March 17, 2014

Arizona’s public schools are willing to settle a lawsuit over state funding for a fraction of what they say the state owes them. But, some lawmakers are still balking. The Arizona Supreme Court last year ruled that starting in 2010 lawmakers violated Proposition 301, a voter-approved mandate to make annual inflation adjustments in state aid to schools. Attorney Don Peters, who represents the schools, said they are willing to settle for just that $240 million, without pursuing the back funds, a deal Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal said is in the best interests of students.

“We are encouraging all entities to get to the negotiating table and settle the Prop 301 lawsuit, and that is potentially a very large level of funding that would go a long way,” Huppenthal said.

House Appropriations Chairman John Kavanagh said he is willing to settle but for a lot less than the schools want, because the state had been more generous than required in the years before they stopped obeying the law.

“They're not taking into account years that we paid above inflation and we should get credit for that,” Kavanagh said.

Peters said that is irrelevant. He said the voter mandate requires an inflation adjustment from whatever was the prior year’s figure.