See how Legislators' bi-partisan budget boosts K-12 education funding - AZEdNews
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See how Legislators’ bi-partisan budget boosts K-12 education funding


Arizona House Of Representatives Members Visit Before Discussion Of Budget Bills And An ESA Expansion During A House Floor Session On Wednesday, June 22, 2022. Photo Courtesy Arizona Capitol Television

Updated June 28, 2022: Gov. Doug Ducey signed the 17 budget bills into law on Tuesday.

Updated June 23, 2022: Arizona Legislators approved a bi-partisan $18 billion budget at 5:45 a.m. Thursday that includes a significant increase in funding for K-12 public schools and the state’s universities. See details below.

The budget now goes to Gov. Doug Ducey for his signature before it becomes law.

See how Legislators' bi-partisan budget boosts K-12 education funding Chris-Kotterman
Chris Kotterman

“This budget represents the first truly bipartisan budget that Arizona has had in over a decade,” said Chris Kotterman, director of governmental relations for Arizona School Boards Association.

“We have a meaningful increase in ongoing funding for K-12 that allows schools a chance to keep pace with inflation and includes longtime ASBA priorities in special education funding increases and a new opportunity weight for low-SES students,” Kotterman said. “Of course we would always like more but that’s the nature of compromise.”

“ESAs are not part of the compromise and stand on their own. ASBA continues to oppose public funding for private and religious schools,” Kotterman said.

“It is encouraging to see parts of the Educators’ Budget included in this historic bi-partisan budget that was passed this morning,” said Marisol Garcia, president-elect of the Arizona Education Association. “This money will have a significant impact for educators, their students, and their families. Today is a victory for public schools in Arizona.”

“Let’s be clear, that we had to fight for every dollar in this budget that started with us asking for $505 million and getting $525 million added to the base level,” Garcia said. “AEA members took time from their summer break to sit in day-long committee meetings and we stayed at the Capitol all through the night to ensure our students got the funding they deserved.”

In addition to the increased education funding, legislators removed the expansion to the state’s private school tuition tax credit the budget, Garcia said.

Stand for Children Arizona said the budget “brings a record and urgently needed $1 billion investment increase in public K-12 education.”

That investment will help schools address “our state’s chronic public school teacher shortage, improve our state’s worst in the nation counselor to student ratios, and increase our state’s low graduation rates.”

“The bi-partisan eduation budget will help Arizona public schools address these key challenges in order to increase student achievement and improve education outcomes across the state, ensure Arizona students are better prepared for life beyong the clasroom and that our Arizona businesses have the skilled workforce necessary to remain competitive,” Stand for Children said.

Legislators are meeting now to discuss and vote on key bills. Committees start at noon, House Floor Sessions start at 1:30 p.m., and Senate Floor Sessions at 3:30 p.m.

Arizona Capitol Television: House Floor Session scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m.

However, the legislature established the largest private school voucher program in the nation by expanding Empowerment Scholarship Account eligibility to any student who can enroll in public school.

Arizona Education Association and Arizona School Boards Association oppose private school vouchers and tuition tax credits because they divert money from Arizona’s public schools into private religious schools without any academic and financial accountability.

Arizona Capitol Television: Senate Floor Session scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m.

“I am grateful that such a large majority of House members, Republicans and Democrats, have had enough wisdom and courage to work together to find answers to the major problems of our state,” said House Speaker Rusty Bowers.

“Reaching bipartisan agreement on taking care of the needs of the people of Arizona shouldn’t be a rare or historic event, as this was. My hope is that this inspire and foster a renewal of the cooperative spirit that our great state was built upon,”

Speaker Bowers said.Speaker Bowers also included these budget highlights in a news release:

  • $330 Million in Property Tax Relief
  • Over $1.25 Billion for State Debt & Pension Payoff
  • Ongoing Savings of nearly $120 Million
  • About $1.1 Billion for Protecting Arizona’s Water and Natural Resources
  • More than $1 Billion for Transportation Infrastructure Projects
  • Greater than $560 Million in Border Security
  • $70 Million in School Safety
  • $1 Billion in new K-12 Education Investments
  • $800 Million in new ongoing K-12 education funding
  • $526 Million in new base level education funding
  • Nearly $400 Million in new one-time education funding
  • $425 Million added to Arizona’s Rainy Day Fund

“From the beginning, it was my hope and the hope of every Arizonan, that this body would come together – both parties – to craft a budget that moves this state forward. Thankfully, that hope was realized tonight,” said Senate Democratic Leader Rebecca Rios.

“Frankly, a majority of this budget does not align with the priorities of Democrats. However, the opportunity to truly invest in our public education and secure a brighter future for Arizona students cannot be overlooked,” Sen. Rios said.

“Arizona needs a budget now, but we recognize the desperate need for future years of quality budgeting to heal decades of leadership shortcomings in our state. Tonight, is a victory – small but impactful,” Sen. Rios said.

“For our caucus, our number one priority from the beginning has been public education. We have a rare and historic opportunity to truly make the investments that our public-school students need and deserve,” said House Democratic Leader Reginald Bolding.

“With a $5.7 billion surplus, there are no more excuses to do the right thing for our kids. Smaller classes, more competitive salaries for our teachers, an opportunity weight for schools in economically disadvantaged communities and new investments in higher education will help secure the future for our next generation and make our workforce more competitive in the 21stcentury economy,” Rep. Bolding said.

“This was not an easy process. But this is what a negotiated compromise budget looks like. This is what our state — where voters are nearly evenly divided by affiliation—has long asked of us. Work together. There are things in this plan we like, things we don’t. Things we love, things we hate. But weighed all together, the good in this budget — finally— outweighs the bad,” Rep. Bolding said.

Legislators plan to adjourn the session on Friday.

Governor’s response to budget

Gov. Doug Ducey showed his support at 7 a.m. for this first bi-partisan budget during his time in office.

K-12 education budget details

There is a total increase of $845 Million in additional funding for schools this year, with an additional $108 M spread over fiscal year 2024 and FY 2025, which includes the creation of a poverty/ opportunity Group B weight, said Chris Kotterman, governmental relations director for Arizona School Boards Association.

Arizona School Boards Association’s Governmental Relations Team provided the following breakdown of the K-12 education budget bill:

Base Level Spending

  • $137 M for required 2% base level inflation increase
  • $389.3 M for an additional 6.8% increase to the base level

This equates to a total base level increase of 8.8%. However, the budget also eliminates teacher compensation fund increases (1.25% if you have a performance pay plan approved by the Arizona State Board of Education). For districts that have historically done teacher compensation plans, the net increase works out to 7.55%, because they were already getting 1.25% for teacher compensation. But districts will no longer have to file the paperwork. Charters were not eligible for teacher compensation funding, so it’s a straight 2.5% increase for them.

Group B Weights

  • $100 M to increase the special education Group B weights to 0.292 from 0.093
  • $50 M to create a new Opportunity Weight for low socioeconomic status students at 0.18, which will increase by $25 M in FY24 and $25 M in FY25, for a total of $100 M at the end of three years

The opportunity weight will be for students eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch or an equivalent measure including community eligibility. This is good language as it creates the broadest possible eligibility

District Additional Assistance (DAA)/Charter Additional Assistance (CAA)

  • $45 M for District Additional Assistance this year and $15 M for Charter Additional Assistance —this is distributed as a flat per-pupil increase, meaning that as a percentage of current DAA amounts, districts will get a larger share.
  • There is an additional $58 M in DAA and CAA allocated for FY24 and FY25 at $29 M each year

Building Renewal

  • $109 M in additional spending above FY22 for building renewal grants.
  • Total available for FY23 will be $199.9 M ($16.7 M ongoing, and $183.3 M one-time)

Vouchers/ESAs

The House Republican caucus was able to secure the votes for universal Empowerment Scholarship Account expansion today. The bill is not linked to the budget formally, and Democrats did not agree to it, but it is moving.

Statewide Equalization Tax Rate (SETR)

The budget also eliminates the Statewide Equalization Tax Rate at a cost of $330 M to the general fund. This is a net $0 cost to schools. Essentially, it is a property tax cut.

“There are many smaller line-items in the Arizona Department of Education budget specifically, but those are the formula highlights. Once all the voting is done we will provide a comprehensive summary of all the numbers,” Kotterman said.

ASBA’s Governmental Relations Team will provide another detailed update soon.

Click here for more detail on the K-12 budget take a look at this document prepared by Legislative Staff here.

In addition, click here for the Arizona Department of Education’s information for schools on Fiscal year 2023 School Finance Fiscal Operations Updates.

Save Our Schools Arizona’s response to budget

Save Our Schools Arizona shared their support for increased K-12 education funding in the budget.

“In the wee hours this morning, the Arizona Legislature passed a budget containing $650 million in new K-12 spending. This investment is the direct result of 5 years of incredible dedication from our volunteers, supporters, and education advocates, as well as Arizona voters’ overwhelming support of public schools,” Save Our Schools Arizona said in a statement. “While at first glance this budget represents a gain for Arizona classrooms and students, it will barely lift Arizona per-pupil spending from 48th to 45th in the US. There is so much more work to be done to fully fund Arizona schools.”

The group also shared their disappointment about the bill moving through the legislative process today that would expand ESA eligibility to all students who can enroll in public schools. This approval of this bill would reverse the decision of 1.5 million Arizona voters who overturned Legislators’ efforts to expand ESA eligibility in the 2018 general election.

“Due to the massive voucher expansion of HB2853, Republican lawmakers have ensured that any funds invested in public schools will be siphoned away by private, for-profit operators seeking to cash in at the expense of Arizona’s kids. It makes no sense to add money into our education funding bucket as we drill massive holes in the bottom,” Save Our Schools Arizona said.

“Save Our Schools Arizona will ensure every child in every community has access to a quality, free and fully funded public education. We will not rest until we defeat the unaccountable voucher grift that’s being used to destroy our community public schools,” Save Our Schools Arizona said. “Our statewide volunteer movement will hold lawmakers accountable at the ballot box by electing a pro-public education Legislature on November 8.”

A for AZ’s take on the budget

A for AZ Founder and CEO Emily Anne Gullickson said, “Arizona has once again prioritized the needs of students by investing an additional billion dollars in K-12 education including programs to support the individual needs of students with disabilities and English Language Learners.”

“The continued investment of $20 million dollars for the Arizona Transportation Modernization Grant program will provide another major opportunity for school leaders to fund innovative transportation options to increase student access to quality schools,” Gullickson said.

“Also, the K-12 funding reforms in the budget moves us closer to ensuring that every student is funded fairly regardless of where they choose to attend school,” Gullickson said.

“Two major steps forward this session include rolling inequitable funding formula components into the base so all students have access and the elimination of the state equalization tax rate to simplify and streamline our already over complicated school finance system,” Gullickson said.

“With these historic levels of investment coming to K-12 schools, we call on everyone serving Arizona students to seize the moment to be innovative, think outside the box, and put students first. We thank the Arizona Legislature and Governor Doug Ducey for once again investing in Arizona’s future.”

Earn to Learn praises budget agreement

Earn to Learn said the Arizona Legislature’s $15 billion bipartisan budget makes historic investments for students across the state, and it provides significant support for both traditional and nontraditional students through investments in K-12 and higher education.

“The Arizona bipartisan budget includes momentous investments in post-secondary education. This funding will go a long way in helping Arizona students graduate workforce ready with little to no student debt,” said Kate Hoffman, founder and CEO of Earn to Learn, the largest and most successful matched-savings scholarship program in the country.

When it comes to the importance of support for education, we believe Ana, an Earn to Learn recipient, said it best.

“Education changes lives. It changes families. And it changes communities. But college is expensive. We must support more students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to pursue a college education. We must invest in programs that get people out of poverty by helping them grow. By helping these individuals, we’ll help our neighborhoods, cities and all of Arizona,” said Ana Chavarin, a University of Arizona 2021 graduate.

Earn to Learn combines student savings with scholarships, financial education and college success coaching to help low-to moderate-income and under-represented students obtain a college education and graduate workforce-ready with little to no student loan debt.

Maricopa Community College comments on budget

The Fiscal Year 2023 Budget includes a multitude of new investments in community colleges to support workforce and economic development, including the permanent restoration of the STEM formula for the Maricopa Community Colleges, funding to enhance community college adult education programs, and new investments in nursing and behavioral health workforce initiatives, said Dr. Steven Gonzales, Interim Chancellor of Maricopa Community Colleges, and Board President Marie Sullivan in a statement.

“As the state’s largest community college system, we celebrate these new investments in community colleges to support our ability to build and expand programs in the highest need workforce areas and ensure our students have access to relevant equipment and high-quality faculty,” Gonzales and Sullivan said in the statement.

Since the Great Recession, the Maricopa Community Colleges have been significantly cut or completely zeroed out of the two main state funding formulas for community colleges: Operational and STEM aid. 

“Today marks a huge win for our system and our students with the restoration of one of these two formulas. Thank you to the Legislature and the Governor, who also included the permanent restoration of STEM formula funding in his Executive Budget released this past January, for affirming the key role of workforce development that our system plays in this state by significantly investing in community colleges in this Fiscal Year 2023 Budget,” Gonzales and Sullivan said in the statement.


Watch it live: House approves ESA expansion & Legislators discuss budget bills

See how Legislators' bi-partisan budget boosts K-12 education funding Screen-Shot-2022-06-22-at-11.35.08-AM
Arizona House of Representatives members visit before discussion of budget bills and an ESA expansion during a House Floor Session on Wednesday, June 22, 2022. Photo courtesy Arizona Capitol Television

Updated June 22, 2022: The Arizona House of Representatives approved a bill along party lines with Republicans for and Democrats against that allows all students who can enroll in public school to be eligible for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, also known as vouchers, which use public taxpayer dollars to pay for students’ private school education.

This action reverses the decision of 1.5 million Arizona voters who overturned Legislators’ efforts to expand ESA eligibility in the 2018 general election.

Education advocates response

Save Our Schools Arizona, Arizona Education Association and other public education advocates including Arizona School Boards Association oppose the ESA expansion bill and a school funding weights bill that would add more funding for low-income students and English Language Learners as well as increase additional assistance for district and charter schools only if the ESA expansion bill is enacted. AZEdNews is a service of the Arizona School Boards Association.

“The organization’s membership has been very clear over the years that it does not support the expansion of the ESA program,” said Chris Kotterman, governmental relations director for Arizona School Boards Association. “Moreover, as a matter of policy, ESAs should stand on their own. If the Legislature wants to expand ESAs, it should expand ESAs. If it thinks spending money on K-12 education is worth doing, it’s worth doing outside of ESAs, and it’s worth doing now. Spending on K-12 education should not be used as insurance to try to block the referral of a measure that opponents believe is unpopular with voters.”

The ESA expansion bill now goes to the Senate for discussion and a vote. If the bill is amended, it will return to the House for discussion and a vote. Bills approved by both the House and Senate are sent to Gov. Doug Ducey for his signature before going into effect.

Arizona Capitol Television: House Floor Session 6/22/22 scheduled to start at 10 a.m.

House Legislators recessed after giving a do pass recommendation to the ESA expansion bill.

When they returned, House Legislators discussed 19 Senate Bills unrelated to the budget before recessing again.

Negotiations among Legislators continue as Republican leadership seeks to ensure they have secured enough votes to pass the budget before discussing the 12 budget bills, including the one focused on K-12 education funding, on the agenda for today’s House Committee of the Whole and Floor sessions.

Details of the ESA and school funding weights bills

Yesterday, the House Rules Committee gave a do pass recommendation for the ESA expansion bill, House Bill 2853, with a 5-3 vote along party lines with Republicans voting for and Democrats voting against. House Bill 2853, sponsored by House Majority Leader Rep. Ben Toma, would expand Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts in the 2022-2023 school year to any student who is eligible to enroll in any public school in the state, including a preschool program for students with disabilities, a kindergarten program, any student in grades 1 through 12 and any other student who otherwise does not qualify for an ESA, and students who attended a nonpublic school for pupils with disabilities in the prior year.

A little more than 11,775 students now use Empowerment Scholarship Accounts to attend private schools using public taxpayer dollars. The average amount students receive is for an ESA is $6,641, or about 90% of per-pupil funding for a students attending a district public school.

The school funding weights bill, House Bill 2854, as sent to the House Rules Committee on June 15, 2022, but no action has been taken on the bill yet. House Bill 2854, sponsored by House Majority Leader Rep. Ben Toma, would add a 0.037 funding weight for students who meet the economic eligibility requirements established under the National School Lunch and Child Nutrition Acts for free- and reduced-price lunch to state K-12 education base support level per-pupil funding for public schools and also increase the weight for English Language Learners from 0.115 to 0.23, but only if House Bill 285 which expands ESAs is enacted. The bill would take effect in July 2023.

Action on ESA bill

Before discussion began on any bills, a measure limiting discussion on each bill to 30 minutes was approved on a voice vote.

Amendments to ESA bill

Then discussion on the ESA bill began with an amendment by Rep. Jake Hoffman that would that would remove the requirement that students in private schools must take a statewide assessment, nationally standardized, norm-referenceed achievement exam, or college of university admissions exam that assesses reading and math. Rep. Ben Toma, sponsor of the ESA bill, said he approved of the amendment.

“If money is going to private schools, we need to know how schools are doing and the public needs to know, I completely disagree with this amendment,” said Rep. Jennifer Pawlik.

“We do not regulate private schools, but we are willing to invest and put in our public dollars to these schools,” said Rep. Lorenzo Sierra. “I hope we do not pass this amendment.”

“There’s no accountability for these private school vouchers and taxpayers deserve to know that their money is being used in a way that lifts the whole school up,” said Rep. Judy Schwiebert, who urged Legislators to vote against the amendment that removes the requirement that students in third- through 12th- grades take a yearly assessment.

An amendment by Rep. Toma would exclude allowing families to use ESA monies to pay for computer hardware and technological devices primarily used for an educational purpose.

Both amendments were adopted on a voice vote.

Then discussion began on the bill.

Discussion of ESA bill

“A predatory market of private school is going to open up and prey on students and families I represent,” said Rep. Sierra, noting that these schools have no accreditation, or licensing and can charge $15,000 in tuition for a student a year.

Rep. Richard Andrade said “Public dollars should be going to public schools not private schools. The voters overwhelming voted against ESAs.”

“Our public schools are lacking funding and ESAs are sucking funds from our public schools,” Rep. Andrade said.

“Students in my LD are not using ESAs. Wealthier parents are using ESAs because they can afford private schools,” Rep. Andrade said.

“We hear a lot about school choice in Arizona,” Rep. Schwiebert said. “We have an open enrollment system and a vast majority of families choose their local public school.”

“With this ESA voucher expansion it’s a billion in and a billion out of our public schools,” Rep. Schwiebert said. “I urge a no vote on this that basically robs families of the resources their children deserve in our public schools.”

Rep. Reginald Bolding asked if a child was enrolled in a private school today would they qualify for this expansion, and Rep. Toma said yes they would.

“Arizona has some of the most dedicated public school teachers. This bill is a slap in the face to everyone of them,” Rep. Bolding said.

“Are we going to support the systems or the individual needs of the student?” said Rep. Steve Kaiser. “I think we should be supporting the student.”

The ESA bill received a do pass recommendation on a voice vote during the Committee of the Whole.

Committee members explain their votes

“I am looking at this bill as a direct violation of the will of the voters,” said Rep. Andres Cano.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about both sides, and frankly there’s a point where we decide we need to govern,” said Rep. Joanne Osborne. “There’s a large population that wants ESA and there’s a large population that wants more funding for public schools. We can do both. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing in this body.”

“We have one of the lowest per-pupil funding rates in the country, and what do we do we decide to do? Make it even lower with this bill,” Rep. Bolding said.

“Education is a multi-billion dollar industry and many choose to profit from it with these private schools,” said Rep. Melody Hernandez. “I don’t buy this is about school choice. This is about trapping students of color in low funded schools.”

“Education is one of the pillars of how we build a strong economy, and we are setting Arizona up for trouble with this bill,” Rep. Hernandez said.

“We know that very recently that people have weighed in on this and by a 35% margin said they did not want to see this and we should not be doing this against the will of the people,” said Rep. Amish Shah.

This bill will lead to private schools charging higher prices, and “this will distort an industry and we will make an industry dependent on the government and that’s not easy to take away,” Rep. Shah said as he voted against the bill.

Rep. Marcelino Quiñonez said the way the bill was introduced at the end of session discouraged conversation.

Rep. Quiñonez invited Legislators to go to public schools to see how teachers are engaging students to help them succeed. Then he urged Legislators to reconsider their vote as he voted against the bill.

“I reject that this is going to be anti-public school,” Rep. Toma said. “Parents should make the choice that’s right for their student.”

The ESA bill received a do pass recommendation on a party line vote with Republicans for and Democrats against.

Action on other bills & budget bills

The House took a recess. Then Legislators returned to discuss and vote on 10 Senate bills not related to the budget on COW #18 agenda.

House Legislators then discussed and voted on nine Senate bills on the COW #19 agenda before recessing again.

Negotiations among Legislators continue as Republican leadership seeks to ensure they have secured enough votes to pass the budget. After that is assured, they will discuss the budget bills during today’s House Committee of the Whole and Floor sessions.

Senate meets to discuss bills

The Arizona Senate is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. today in the Committee of the Whole. Senators will discuss several bills, none of which are related to the budget bills.

Arizona Capitol Television: Senate Floor Session 6/22/22 scheduled to start at 1 p.m.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved several budget bills today.

Updated Tuesday, June 21, 2022: Video: House Appropriations approves K-12 education budget bill & others

See how Legislators' bi-partisan budget boosts K-12 education funding Screen-Shot-2022-06-21-at-9.28.56-AM
House Appropriations Chair Regina Cobb answers a question during discussion of HB 2866, the K-12 education funding bill during the House Appropriations Committee meeting Monday, June 21, 2022. Photo courtesy Arizona Capitol Television

The House Appropriations Committee gave a do pass recommendation to the K-12 education funding bill Tuesday morning: 8 for and 5 against. Rep. César Chávez voted with most Republicans for the bill, and Rep. Jake Hoffman voting with most Democrats against it.

Budget bills that receive do pass recommendations in committee are heard and voted upon in both the House and Senate. Amendments to the bills are discussed and voted on both the House and the Senate floor. Then the budget bills that receive a do pass recommendation will be sent to Gov. Doug Ducey for his signature before going into effect.

“This does not move the needle in Arizona for education the way that we have an opportunity to do with the revenue situation that we have today and the dire, dire needs of our K-12 system,” said Rep. Kelli Butler as she voted against the K-12 education budget bill House Bill 2866.

“I think that’s one of the things we all probably talk about the most with voters and people who are concerned about Arizona is our very, very dismal lack of funding for K-12, and this does not improve things,” Rep. Butler said.

Voters’ education budget priorities

Last week, Center for the Future of Arizona released education findings from their Arizona Voters’ Agenda, a survey of voters:

  • 82% support increased funding for K-12 education
  • 97% support ensuring Arizona schools have quality teachers and principals
  • 97% support expanding career and technical education opportunities
  • 88% support increase teacher pay
  • 83% support increasing access and affordability of early learning programs for 3- and 4-year-olds
  • 83% support closing gaps in educational outcomes for vulnerable populations, including low-income, those with disabilities and English Language Learners
  • 94% support increasing the number of Arizona students who complete education or training beyond high school
  • 80% support reducing financial barriers for students going to college
  • 97% agreed that every school should have the resources necessary to deliver quality education that prepares every child for the future, not matter their skin color, background or ZIP code
  • 86% said closing achievement gaps among our students is important to ensuring our state can produce the skilled workforce necessary for a strong economic future for Arizona.

Arizona Capitol Television: House Appropriations Committee 6/21/22 started at 8 a.m.

The House Appropriations Committee gave do pass recommendations all budget bills, this session of the Arizona Legislature ends on June 30. The new fiscal year starts July 1, 2022. If a budget is not passed by then, some state functions would shut down immediately and others would slow down, said House Attorney Tim Fleming.

In addition, the House Appropriations Committee also gave do pass recommendations to skinny continuation budget bills that failed in April. The continuation budget bills keep spending at current levels and adjust for inflation. They were passed along party lines with Republicans voting for and Democrats voting against. However, House Education Chair Michelle Udall said she would not vote for the continuation budget bills on the House Floor.

The Senate Appropriations Committee started discussing and voting on the budget bills yesterday and that continued today as well.

Senate Appropriations Committee Meeting 6/21/22 started at 10:30 a.m.

The K-12 education budget bill is Senate Bill 1733, sponsored by Senate President Karen Fann, with co-sponsors Majority Whip Sen. Sonny Borrelli, Majority Leader Sen. David Gowan, Majority Leader Sen. Rick Gray and President Pro-Tempore Sen. Vince Leach.

K-12 budget bill details

The fiscal year 2023 K-12 education bill is House Bill 2866, sponsored by House Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Regina Cobb. It includes a 7.9% increase in per pupil funding, which would increase the current base level from $4,390.65 to $4,736.63.

House Bill 2866 also repeals a statute allowing schools to increase its base level with additional monies for teacher compensation.

“However, the proposal eliminates the existing 1.25% teacher comp funding, and the 7.9% increase also includes the scheduled required 2% Prop. 301 increase. So the base level that is being proposed is 4.65% above what would normally be provided. However, this is a needed addition in these difficult economic times.,” said Dr. Chuck Essigs, director of governmental relations for Arizona Association of School Business Officials.

“I’m very worried this K-12 bill is not increasing base support enough to cover inflation, real inflation. I’m worried that we are shifting from a big chunk of payment toward our K-12 system from stable property taxes paid by corporations like APS and SRP. We’re shifting them to the general fund which is much more volatile and subject to cuts by this body, and we are making it vulnerable to Prop. 123 triggers that this body also put in place probably for a reason,” Rep. Butler said.

In addition, House Bill 2866 includes a 7.2% increase in District Additional Assistance and an 8.4% increase in Charter Additional Assistance.

“There’s been an ongoing discussion about this and there’s still some negotiations going on about changing that to the same amount on a per-pupil,” House Education Chair Michelle Udall said. “We need a floor amendment to address that.”

“This does not treat charter and district additional assistance fairly. We’re hearing that there may be an amendment and I hope there is,” Rep. Butler said.

Transportation Support Level $2.77 amount per mile increases to $2.83 for fiscal year 2022-2023. The $2.27 rate rises to $2.32. Also, the Group B weight for special education students with developmental delays, emotional disabilities, specific learning disability, mild intellectual disabilities, speech or language impairment, other health impairment rises from 0.093 or $440 to 0.292 or $1,383, Dr. Essigs noted.

Comments on K-12 budget bill

“We feel that this bill is a step in the right direction. However we do feel that it still falls short of what we need it to be. And does not meet the demands and the needs of our public education system,” said Brenden Foland for Arizona Education Association.

“We understand that there is some additional investments in the base, the opportunity weight, and things of that nature which we have advocated for in the past. But we would still like to see additional investments that can actually make a significant impact into our K-12 system,” Foland said.

Foland said the AEA also has concerns about shifting ase funding for schools from property taxes to the general fund.

“Moving this from local property taxes to the general fund will create an artificial kind of pressure on the Prop. 123 triggers. Granted while those do not go into effect until fiscal year 2026, we are still cognizant of it because we are trying to avoid looking at things at the last minute and be more forward thinking,” Foland said.

Rep. Judy Schwiebert asked what teachers and schools are seeing as the needs for mental health and school resource officers as well as the need for more school counselors.

“We did put some funding in – equal funding for SROs and school counselors – a few years back, and I think we are still short on both, but more short on SROs, especially with school safety,” said House Appropriations Chair Regina Cobb. “There is quite a waiting list still that were not funded, and that’s what this does it funds it and then if there’s money left over it can go to the school counselors too.”

House Education Chair Michelle Udall said, “A bunch of the ESSER money was put in to cover school counselors so there’s really a shortage of money for SROs, because a lot of the counselors have been covered.”

“I have heard concerns from our school counselors that the counselors are aware that the ESSER money is going away in the next couple of years, and so it’s difficult to actually get new counselors because they don’t have job security because we’re not really addressing the need at a state level – ESSER money is from the federal level,” Rep. Schwiebert said. “I know there’s a lot of concern among all of us about mental health right now, especially among our students.”

Other provisions of the bill

House Bill 2866 also establishes three adult-education workforce programs – the continuing workforce training program, the adult workforce diploma program, and the community college workforce adult education program – and includes eligibility and funding criteria as well as performance review by the State Board of Education.

The bill also expands eligibility for county jail education programs to all prisoners who are 21 years old or younger who do not have a high school diploma or equivalent.

It also establishes the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account Parent Oversight Committee and outlines it’s membership and duties. The Committee would work with state education entities to coordinate the ESA program and address concerns of parents of qualified students.

“The ESA oversight committee is very, very partisan and doesn’t make sense,” Rep. Butler said.

In response to the House Appropriations Committee’s do pass recommendation on House Bill 2866, House Minority Leader Rep. Reginald Bolding said, “We still have an opportunity to get this budget right, but somewhere it has taken a hard turn off the cliff.”

“With a $5 billion surplus and a rare opportunity to finally meet the needs of our students and remove our public schools from the national funding basement, this proposed budget is a failure,” House Minority Leader Bolding said.

Grand Canyon Institute policy paper on budget priorities

Grand Canyon Institute‘s Research Director Dave Wells released a policy paper Six Arizona Budget Priorities, if People Mattered today after the K-12 education budget bill vote in the House Appropriations Committee that called for investments in water, housing and children with the estimated $3.7 billion in one-time funds and estimated $1.6 billion in on-going funding forecast by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee that are “largely a product of the $78 billion in federal COVID-19 pandemic-related assistance that went to people, companies and governments in Arizona.”

“The flat tax being implemented comes with a $1.4 billion loss of ongoing revenues, and as GCI’s ongoing funding priorities exceed $1.6 billion, GCI recommends returning to a 4.5% marginal tax rate (instead of 8%) for the high income earners that were targeted by Prop. 208,” Wells writes.

The policy paper proposes that one-time funding be invested $1 billion in water, $720 in housing, $35 million in unemployment insurance program technology modernization. It also recommends that ongoing funding be invested $280 million phased in for early childhood interventions, $1.46 for K-12 education and $440 billion for state employee salary increases.

Wells’ paper also recommends making a marginal tax rate of 4.5% on single taxpayers earning $250,000 and couples earning $500,000, which would provide $460 million in revenue to fill in the ongoing gap without additional funds for other priorities.

What’s next

“Republicans have used shell games, accounting gimmicks and tax shifts to massively inflate the amount they are telling the public they are investing in schools. In reality this plan only invests about $500 million in new money in our schools, which doesn’t even match inflation,” House Minority Leader Bolding said.

“At the same time, this budget spends more new money on a border fence than on our universities or our affordable housing crisis. It also takes away money designated for teacher compensation while adding tens of millions for school police officers as their only solution for gun violence,”House Minority Leader Bolding said.

“Republicans saying we must accept and pass this deeply flawed budget or face a government shutdown is just brinksmanship. They have been wasting time for weeks in order to bring us to this moment. But there is still time to get it right. A true bi-partisan budget is within our reach and within our means, but the games must end,” Rep. Bolding said.