A special session on education funding sprints to a close as Governor Doug Ducey signs a package that ends a lawsuit on money to cover inflation. Overall, the deal means three and a half billion dollars over the next ten years into schools to keep up with inflation, plus additional funding

to include raising annual per-pupil spending from $3,400 to $3,600. Just before signing the bills, Ducey said the outcome fulfills a call he made in his State of the State address to finally settle this lawsuit.

S-B 1001, which provides the mechanism for raising the per- pupil spending baseline, is only one of three bills getting unanimous support. But the bipartisan vote is deceiving: Democrats like Senator Steve Farley gave the bill mostly lukewarm support, calling it a good first step but hardly a fix for the hole caused by inflation that a voter-passed law requires.

But Farley went on to lambaste the deal, saying it provides only 72% of the funding voters demand Some Democrats warn the increase in State Trust Land payments to 6.9% amounts to a raid on the fund which could illicit brand new legal action. Others say the funding does nothing to raise Arizona’s 49th standing for education funding.

But Republicans say this is a time to rejoice because three and a half billion extra dollars is going into schools over the next ten years. Senate President Andy Biggs likened the Democratic pessimism to the character of Eeyore  in Winnie the Pooh—the cartoon donkey, he says, who always sees the rain in the situation, never the sunshine.

The education plan sets a May election to let voters decide on whether to raise the Trust Fund distribution from 2.5% to 6.9%.

–Barbara Villa

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