Court restores AZ education funding increases - Tucson News Now

Court restores AZ education funding increases

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

A judge says Arizona's public schools will get what is coming to them.

Hundreds of millions of dollars now, and potentially billions more later.

It's the latest move in a fight over state education funding.

Voters approved a plan in back in 2000 to always adjust that funding for inflation, but the legislature stopped doing that during the recession.

Education supporters sued and won.

Last year the Arizona Supreme Court ruled the state legislature had not honored the voter-approved funding adjustments.

Now a Maricopa County Superior Court judge says the state owes schools at least $317 million.

It's $1.6 billion over five years.

The total could hit $2.9 billion if the state has to pay retroactively.

The court ruling is considered a big victory for public schools.

It means, in the Vail Unified School District, for instance, it could bring in almost 200 additional dollars per student next school year.

"We're just thrilled that the court has affirmed the will of the people because the people of Arizona spoke and said we want education funded at a higher level, and the legislature thwarted that will," says Vail District Superintendent Calvin Baker.

He says the children of Arizona are owed the money.

"Over the last five years education in Arizona has been shorted by over a billion dollars. And that has created incredible stresses all across the system, from salaries to the repair of roofs, parking lots, antiquated computers," Baker says.

He says no one is really sure yet exactly how much money each district will get or when.

He says there are so many needs, there will be a lot of thought into where Vail's money should go.

"Until it's in our account we're being really conservative. We certainly don't want to go out and announce that we're going to spend money on this or that or something else at this point,'" Baker says.

There is concern among some district leaders that state lawmakers could go looking for a way around the court order.

"There's always the opportunity to give money in one hand and take with the other hand. And so our hope and our expectation is that the legislature will respect the will of the people as it has been confirmed by the court, " Baker says.

He says his district will be watching and waiting to see what the legislature does to pay back the money.

Click here to see the court ruling. 

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