Arizona education 'crisis' averted, at least for the moment
22nd Feb 2022
What a difference a week makes. Last week, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman delivered her “State of Education” address to the Senate Education Committee and declared “a crisis.” That was because $1.1 billion in education funding was being held hostage by hardline politics in the Legislature, even though the money had been previously budgeted and allocated by the Legislature.
But with a Feb. 28 deadline looming, the Arizona Senate on Monday joined the House in voting to waive a constitutional cap on K-12 school spending. The vote is largely procedural, allowing public schools to exceed the 1980 voter-mandated state constitutional spending limits, something the Legislature has done in recent years without much drama since the money is already there and approved by the Legislature itself.
Republican leadership of the GOP-controlled Legislature were successful in arm-twisting enough members of their party to join Democrats to end the very real threat of driving Arizona education off a cliff.
But this is Arizona, meaning there are still some cliff-hanger episodes ahead regarding education. Chief among them is a Maricopa County Superior Court judge’s long-awaited ruling on the constitutionality of Proposition 208, the so-called tax-the-wealthy measure approved by voters that would raise $800 million a year for K-12 education. This was the cause of the education crisis, with many Republicans objecting to the funding mechanism without offering any funding alternative.
Arizona continues to lag far behind the nation in terms of educational commitment in both spending and achievement. A just-released study underscored that fact, ranking Arizona's public school system as the worst among the 50 states.
According to Scholaroo.com, a national college scholarship organization, Arizona ranks:
The aggregate score put The 48th State as the 50th state in terms of schools during the pandemic. Being at the bottom of education rankings isn’t anything new, as anyone who has lived in Arizona can attest. Unfortunately, neither is the constant drama and crisis surrounding education funding at the Legislature. Stay tuned.
By Joseph Garcia
CPLC Action Fund