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Education deal is the best legislators will offer our kids

The Camp Verde Journal of Camp Verde, Arizona

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Late last week Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and his staff mediated negotiations between legislators and school officials from around the state after court-led negotiations to settle the 2010 Cave Creek v. DeWit education funding lawsuit failed.

The court ruled in the schools' favor and ordered the state to pay the money it had refused to pay during and after the Great Recession.

The key elements include a base level reset of $3,600 per student, which is an increase of $173. While this is only 72 percent of what appellate courts ruled the state should pay, the base level will reach the full amount the court-ordered full amount within two years. Laws covering the cost of inflation will continue as it currently exists [2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less] with compounding in perpetuity. In consideration of back pay to districts, additional funds distributed annually include $50 million per year for the first five years, $75 million per year for the second five years, but are only 50 percent of what the courts said was owed. In case of another recession or severe downturn in the state economy, contingencies have been put in place to make adjustments and keep schools and teachers funded.

The negotiated settlement puts $3.5 billion of state funds into education over the next 10 years. The Arizona State Legislature plans a special election on Tuesday, May 17, for voters to enact constitutional changes needed to complete the settlement.

While this is far less than what voters approved back in 2000 and less than what the state owes our kids, it appears the best we can get out of our state legislators, which in itself is a sad statement for Arizona. Our legislators touted the fact they negotiated an end to the lawsuit and an education deal without raising taxes, which means our kids get they short end of the stick while legislators get a campaign slogan as they head into their 2016 elections: "I sold your kids' education to win reelection."

How lovely. Our kids get dilapidated schools, our teachers stay at the bottom of the salary list nationwide, our local districts struggle to make ends meet and must beg voters for every nickel and dime in bonds and overrides — but statte legislators get another term in office because they managed to strong-arm schools at the negotiating table after refusing to obey their commitments to voters in 2010 and refusing to obey court orders to settle the case for the last five years.

Yes, taxes are costly and annoying, but they pay for things we all need, like schools and teachers.

So voters, remember, there are two elections dates to keep in mind: The May 17 special election to settle the lawsuit and the Tuesday, Nov. 8, general election when Arizona voters can vote out legislators who take pride in shortchanging our schools, our communities and our kids.

— Christopher Fox Graham Managing Editor

Copyright 2015 The Camp Verde Journal, Camp Verde, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015

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