State Capitol News
5:00 am
Mon March 17, 2014

Arizona Public Schools Willing to Settle Prop 301 Lawsuit

Public schools are willing to settle a lawsuit over state funding for a fraction of what they say they're owed. But, Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer reports there’s some balking.

State schools chief John Huppenthal
Credit azcapitoltimes.com

The state Supreme Court ruled last year that lawmakers, starting in 2010, violated Proposition 301, a voter-approved mandate to make annual inflation adjustments in state aid to schools. That ruling immediately added $80 million. But, that still leaves two questions: Should aid be reset to what it would have been had lawmakers not broken the law? And, what about the $1.2 billion schools did not get in the interim? Attorney Don Peters who represents schools is willing to settle for just that baseline $240 million increase and forego the back funds. State schools chief John Huppenthal said a deal is in the best interests of students.

“We are encouraging all entities to get to the negotiating table and settle the Prop 301 lawsuit. And that is potentially a very large level of funding that would go a long way,” Huppenthal said.

John Kavanagh, head of the House Appropriations Committee, said he’s willing to settle. But, he contends the state owes schools a lot less than that $240 million because lawmakers had been more generous in prior years, before they stopped obeying the law.

“I think the problem is they're not taking into account years that we paid above inflation. And, we should get credit for that,” Kavanagh said.

Peters said that's nice – but irrelevant. He said the voter mandate requires an annual inflation adjustment from whatever was the prior year's figure.