Report: Arizona School Funding Still Far Below Pre-Recession Levels Even If Prop 123 Passes

Published: Friday, December 11, 2015 - 10:05am
Updated: Friday, December 11, 2015 - 10:45am

A new report Thursday said state funding of Arizona public schools will still be $863 million below what it was prior to the recession, even if voters approve taking more money out of the state land trust fund.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that Arizona cut a bigger chunk out of education funding between 2009 and 2014 than any other state in the nation. Dana Naimark of the Children's Action Alliance said state aid to students in Arizona is still 15 percent less than it was in 2009 when inflation is taken into account. She also said Proposition 123 will do little to make up for all the cuts lawmakers have made.

Andrew Morrill of the Arizona Education Association said that should not deter voters from supporting the measure, calling it a first step. But he said they will be watching to see if lawmakers approve tax cuts ahead of the May 17 prop vote.

"If we go into this legislative session, we start stripping away revenue, and we don't have any serious conversations about other aspects of education funding that need to be restored, that may end up sending a very negative message to voters," Morrill said.

Naimark with the Children's Action Alliance pointed out the plan takes money from a trust account already earmarked for K-12 schools to make up for the failure of the legislature to meet its legal commitment to use tax dollars to make annual inflation adjustments. She said voters won't like the idea of raiding their own funds so lawmakers can cut taxes. More significant, Naimark said Prop 123 is a temporary solution: the extra dollars it would provide disappear in 2025.

"Well, then, what happens after 10 years?" she asked. "The kids that are in kindergarten today will be in 10th grade when that money runs out. If we have nothing at the end of that, what have we done?"

Gov. Doug Ducey's spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said his boss sees Prop 123 as a first step but could provide no details of what else the governor might propose in education funding.

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities