The Arizona Legislature approved an FY2017 state education budget early Wednesday that does not delay the implementation of current year funding for school districts, however thanks to the hard work of education organizations and school districts dollars were allocated to relieve negative financial impacts in the year ahead.
The budget will now be reviewed by Governor Doug Ducey.
Arizona lawmakers approved a roughly $9.6 billion budget shortly after midnight Wednesday that they credit with increasing spending after years of tough decisions while the state slowly recovered from economic turmoil, according to the Arizona Capitol Times.
The budget restores some funding to K-12 education and provides a tax cut for business owners, while ignoring pleas to restore KidsCare, a children’s health care program for low-income families that had gathered from Democrats and moderate Republicans last week, according to The Arizona Republic.
In a statement Wednesday morning, the Arizona School Boards Association said the budget does provide funding to prevent cuts to districts that lose funding under the implementation of current-year funding, another year of funding for district-sponsored charter schools for those remaining at the current funding level and protects invisible space calculations for all schools.
“Although we would have preferred a delay to the implementation of current-year funding, we are grateful that the state will fully fund any shortfall school districts see from this change in FY17,” the ASBA statement said. “We will continue to educate state leaders on the need for policy changes to address current-year funding in the coming years.”
Starting next year the calculation of the Base Support Level for both school districts and Joint Technical Education Districts will be based upon current year count, which is the largest component in determining state aid and budget capacity, said Chuck Essigs, executive director of the Arizona Association of School Business Officials.
However, all other school funding components like Classroom Site Fund, Instructional Improvement Fund, override calculations, small school exemption, tuition calculations, and more will still be based upon prior year count, Essigs said.
“The budget does include a hold harmless provision for FY 2017 that was added today that will provde assistance for districts that will be declining from this year to next school year,” Essigs said. “This provision will have Arizona Department of Education adjust the state funding level and budget capacity for districts that are declining in FY 2017 to offset the impact of moving to current year funding.”
That provision will only be made for FY2017, and will require the legislature to fund the additional state aid cost to state aid districts, Essigs said.
State aid and non-state aid districts will have increased budget capacity from this provision, but the cost for non-state aid districts will be paid by local taxes, which is consistent with how the current school funding formula works for state aid and non-state aid districts, Essigs said.
Expect More Arizona was one of the groups who had advocated for a delay in Current Year Funding to ensure Arizona’s K-12 schools budgets were not cut by $31 million next year.
“We are encouraged by the support for education reflected in the FY17 state budget passed by the Legislature last night, which we believe is a result of the persistence of education advocates across the state,” said Expect More Arizona in a press release on May 4.
“We are pleased that K-12 education has a net positive budget, including holding schools harmless as they transition to Current Year Funding and restoration of funding for Joint Technical Education Districts,” Expect More Arizona said. “Additionally, $32 million was appropriated for our universities, a portion of which supports the resident funding model. These are incremental steps in the right direction that are needed to support the long-term solution for education funding.”
“We know without a doubt that more needs to be done to support education and to ensure students arrive healthy and ready to learn,” Expect More Arizona said in its statement. “Next steps include passing Proposition 123, renewing and updating Proposition 301, continued investment in our community colleges and universities, increasing compensation for Arizona’s educators, and responsibly using the state surplus.”
Earlier budget proposals reduced the important School Facilities Board calculations for invisible space in buildings, which would have negatively impacted growing schools, according to the ASBA statement.
Appropriations for Agua Fria Union High School District and for Chandler Unified District were approved for their schools that already had School Facilities Board approval. However, the funding will be spread out over two years.
The proposed provision that was going to reduce invisible space from 25 percent to 10 percent for the calculation of when a district would qualify for a new school was deleted from the final budget bill, Essigs said.
“The final budget removes that change, protecting the current process of calculating the need for new facilities and ensuring a district is reimbursed if they use their own funding to complete a school facility,” the ASBA statement said.
Also, funding will be appropriated for the remaining district sponsored charter schools to allow them to remain at this year’s reduced funding level for FY2017, Essigs said. Non-state districts aid with district sponsored charter schools will have budget capacity at this year’s reduced level continued for FY 2017.
ASBA also says that the budget legislators passed:
“Education is currently the top priority for Arizona voters and the business community,” Expect More Arizona said in its statement. “Now, it is up to all of us to hold our elected leaders accountable to work toward this long-term solution together.”