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As session winds down, speaker withdraws controversial amendment impacting Prop. 123 funds (+Video)


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  • Lisa Irish/Arizona Education News Service

Photo Courtesy Arizona Capitol Television

Updated May 10, 2017 – When House legislators returned Wednesday afternoon to the Committee of the Whole, House Speaker J.D. Mesnard withdrew his revised amendment to Senate Bill 1156.

Mesnard’s revised amendment introduced earlier Wednesday would have required sufficient inflationary funding to go towards cost of living adjustments for teachers’ and staffs’ salaries.

As session winds down, speaker withdraws controversial amendment impacting Prop. 123 funds (+Video) MesnardOnHisAmendment

House Speaker J.D. Mesnard. Photo courtesy Arizona Capitol Television

The amendment would have violated the intent and spirit of Prop. 301 and the settlement agreement in Prop. 123, said Chris Thomas, associate executive director of Arizona School Boards Association and chief legal counsel.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said the governor is not interested in reopening the settlement to add the new requirement, according to an Associated Press article.

Mesnard’s comments on the amendment

During the Committee of the Whole, Mesnard spoke about what his revised amendment was meant to do before he withdrew it.

“This is a pretty simple amendment that I think is within the theme of what many have been focused on this session and that is how do we get more money to teachers,” Mesnard said.

“I wanted to highlight something that has been a growing frustration for many of us here and many of the teachers out there, at least those that we hear from many of us, and that is back in 1998 or 1999 whenever Prop. 301 was put out there, it was sold as way among other things to get more money to teachers,” Mesnard said.

Mesnard said he had the arguments that were made in favor of Prop. 301 in front of him and said many of them mentioned how this would remedy Arizona’s low teacher pay.

“All throughout, it’s how this is going to get more money into the classroom. This amendment is consistent with that theme,” Mesnard said. “This amendment is about getting more money into the classroom, because when we offer an inflationary amount of money to the K-12 system it is supposed to be about helping them to absorb the deflating dollar value. That’s what inflation is about.”

Yet, there is no requirement that the money go to what the proposition was “sold as,” Mesnard said.

“This says that the first dollars going to schools needs to go to a COLA (cost of living adjustment) for teachers,” Mesnard said.

“I have had people over the past 24 hours react to this, saying this violates Prop. 123, it violates the settlement. I have the settlement. You can read the settlement. It does not. It does not,” Mesnard said. “That settlement was about something in the past, and this is about inflation money moving forward.”

“I think it’s extremely important for the public to understand that the average teacher pay is not a function of the legislature,” Mesnard said. “We obviously have a role in funding education, but it’s also a function of decisions made by the school districts.”

Mesnard said he realized he introduced hit amendment late in the session, but he wanted to put it out there to get people talking about it.

“This is something I’m not going to let go,” Mesnard said. “I heard from many of you when the amendment was put out there that you were very supportive of the concept, so I look forward to working with you over the interim as we talk about what something like this might look like, again to make sure there is a COLA given to our teachers when we are giving K-12 education what is essentially a COLA, an inflationary adjustment every year.”

“I want districts to know that we will be watching,” Mesnard said. “They can disparage us and say we’re not doing our part, but I think many of us there would look at some districts – I’m not going to throw them all in this camp, but at least some districts – and seriously question the decisions they’re making and whether or not the dollars we’re sending to them are getting to where they should be getting.”

“With that, Mr. Chairman, I withdraw my amendment,” Mesnard said. House members approved the withdrawal of the amendment.

As session winds down, speaker withdraws controversial amendment impacting Prop. 123 funds (+Video) Republican-CaucusMay10

Photo courtesy of Arizona Capitol Television

*  *  *

May 9, 2017

Members of the Arizona House of Representatives may consider an amendment to Senate Bill 1156 that would violate  Prop. 301 and the intent of the settlement agreement in Prop. 123 when legislators return Wednesday at 10 a.m.

The amendment, by House Speaker J.D. Mesnard to SB 1156, would require at least 50 percent of inflation monies to be used by local education agencies to increase teacher salaries.

As session winds down, speaker withdraws controversial amendment impacting Prop. 123 funds (+Video) Amendment3hp3

Photo courtesy Arizona Capitol Television

House members met starting at 10 a.m. today to consider and vote on several bills,  then adjourned shortly after 3 p.m., before debating the Mesnard amendment, but it could come up for a vote anytime before this legislative session ends.

Arizona School Boards Association is opposed to this amendment, said Chris Kotterman, director of governmental relations for Arizona School Boards Association.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said the governor is not interested in reopening the settlement to add the new requirement, according to an Associated Press article.

“Prop. 123 and the education settlement are settled and done,” Scarpinato said in the Associated Press article. “We’re not looking to renegotiate the settlement.”

Video by Brooke Razo/ASBA: Mesnard amendment to SB1156 would violate the intent of  Prop. 301 and Prop. 123

Mesnard said school districts should be using built-in inflation growth to provide inflation raises every year, according to an article in the Arizona Capitol Times.

As session winds down, speaker withdraws controversial amendment impacting Prop. 123 funds (+Video) JDMesnard

House Speaker J.D. Mesnard. Photo courtesy Arizona Capitol Television

“I mean this makes the point that there’s already supposed to be a cost of living adjustment for teacher salaries, among others, every year. So this idea that the raise we gave didn’t keep up with that or the districts are totally off the hook for teacher salaries, I think this single amendment makes the point that that is not the case,” Mesnard said in the Arizona Capitol Times article.

Placing restrictions on inflation funding ties districts hands and is a distraction from the fact that the Legislature continues to fail to fulfill its responsibilities, Vega said.

“The amendment offered here in the closing days of the legislature after we’ve passed the budget would place some significant restrictions on the ability of the districts to use Prop. 301 inflation adjustments for whatever they chose, which is the current law,” Kotterman said. “It would restrict half of that to being used for teacher pay without adding any additional money to the system.”

“There are a number of problems with that,” Kotterman said. “ASBA is opposed to that for a number of reasons, not the least of which is an imposition on local control.”

“One of the problems with this particular amendment coming at this particular time is that it really does undo the deal that we have on Prop. 123,” said Chris Thomas, associate executive director of ASBA and chief legal counsel. “Prop. 123, being of course, the settlement that we got over the Prop. 301 inflationary increase.”

As session winds down, speaker withdraws controversial amendment impacting Prop. 123 funds (+Video) Amendment2HP2

Photo courtesy Arizona Capitol Television

“The Prop. 123 settlement said there would be no strings attached to this money,” Thomas said. “That these moneys would be determined at the local level how to be spent, and most of them did go to teachers’ salaries because that is the greatest need, but the important thing is that if there are things happening in districts that they have to address those needs, that’s the flexibility they will have.”

“Again, also why that is important is that that’s consistent with the vision that was in Prop. 301, that was passed back in 2000,” Thomas said. “301 had different buckets of money. One was the classroom site fund, which was created by the sales tax collections that went directly to teachers and that’s the vast majority of the money.”

“The other one was the inflation mandate that would give districts to determine at the local level to deal with other expenses that have – their personnel, operations issues, even maintenance issues,” Thomas said.

“There are a lot of other things going on in districts right now or course, we’re having current year funding fully implemented, and we’re having the 85 percent cut continuing with the district additional assistance at a time when we need maximum flexibility,” Thomas said.

“The vast majority of districts probably will put more than half that money in teachers’ salaries, but the point is that’s a local decision and that’s something we very much believe in,” Thomas said.

“When we got to do the deal on Prop. 123, Governor Ducey and his staff very clearly told us that we had his word that in future years these monies would not be directed into other places, that we would maintain the no strings attached promise,” Thomas said. “This is very much something that we got from the Governor’s Office, and he said as long as he’s governor there will never be any strings attached to this money.”

Kotterman said ASBA is reaching out to all members of the House of Representatives to let them know their opposition to this amendment.

“The amendment requires a simple majority to get on, but then it would require a final vote in the next day or so,” Kotterman said. “Anybody who cares about education should be concerned about this.”

Concerned community members are asked to contact their legislators in the House and Senate to let them know how they feel about this amendment.

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