Ducey announces plan to settle school lawsuit
PHOENIX (KSAZ) - There has been a breakdown in negotiations between public school districts and the state. The schools say the state owes them nearly $1 billion.
The case now heads back to court, but Arizona Governor Doug Ducey says he has a plan.
The issue had started years before Ducey took office. Voters approved a measure forcing the state to increase school funding at the rate of inflation.
But during the recession, lawmakers put that on hold, and now schools say they are owed back money.
"First thing we have to do is have the state land trust proposal pass, if it does pass I think you will be able to see it will lead the country in terms of new dollars into the classroom," said Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.
Ducey pushed his idea to use money from land trust sales to fund education and possibly settle a long lawsuit between school groups and the legislature. This week, seven months of work to hammer out a deal crumbled.
"It's frustrating to the students of Arizona and the teachers of Arizona and the parents of Arizona," said Chris Thomas, with the AZ School Board Association.
The Arizona School Board Association says the state is on the hook for at least $300 million owed to schools from last year alone.
Gov. Ducey said his proposal would boost school funding by $2 billion in the next ten years. Republican leaders in the state legislature say they agree with the idea.
"Our office has called for them to settle the lawsuit and start paying teachers, and stop paying attorneys. We are going to do what we can take charge of and move the land trust idea forward," said Ducey.
Arizona ranks 50th in state funding per pupil, less than any other state in the nation. Gov. Ducey will not commit using the state's budget surplus to settle the suit, and he refuses to raise taxes.
"We're not going to raise taxes," he said.
Now that budget talks have failed the issue goes back to court. Lawmakers are appealing the court order to pay the schools $300 million.