Judge Orders Inflation Payments For Schools

By  Stina Sieg
July 11, 2014

(Image courtesy or Arizona State Legislature)
John Kavanagh, Arizona State Legislature Republican Representative for District 8.

Arizona schools will be getting an additional $317 million this year, and possibly billions more in the future, if a court decision stands. A judge has ruled that school funding must continue to increase with inflation, as was dictated by voters in 2000. 

The state legislature kept that promise until 2009, when the budget crunch hit the state. Now a Maricopa County Superior Court judge has ruled the legislature begin paying inflation once more.

Chuck Essigs with the Arizona Association of School Business Officials said districts expected this decision, but it doesn’t change the fact that Arizona schools are some of the lowest funded in the country.

“Just to move to the national average would increase spending in the state by $2 billion, you know,” Essigs said. “And now we’re looking at increasing spending for schools in the area of $300 million, but it certainly is additional resources.”

That’s more than $300 million every year, which adds up. The judge has not ruled yet on what to do about the $1.3 billion for inflation schools were not given the past few years. The state government could be on the hook for nearly $3 billion over the next five years.

That worries Republican Representative John Kavanagh.

“It’s going to certainly create a court-ordered, major shift of emphasis away from all government agencies except K-12,” Kavanagh said. “So everyone is going to be tightening their belts, except the schools, which will be loosening their belts."

Kavanagh added that he doesn’t know where the cash will come from. The state does have 450 million dollars in its “rainy day fund.”