Budget discussions are well underway at the Capitol. Governor Ducey released his budget proposal, and the negotiation process with the legislature has begun. Overall, while the Executive Budget contains much-needed funding for public education, it’s missing long-term sustainable investments. Arizona’s schools are experiencing a severe teacher crisis, low literacy rates, and tragically low high school graduation rates. Now, it’s the legislature’s turn to respond with their own projections and spending priorities. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) released the baseline budget, and Senate Republicans released their budget framework. While JLBC’s and the governor’s numbers don’t completely match, here is our rundown of where things stand (pun intended!). Click HERE for an extremely detailed analysis by our in-house budget expert, Stacey Morley.
Most significantly, the governor proposed fully restoring Additional Assistance funding - the last of the recession-era cuts. The executive proposal also makes significant allocations for school capital needs and makes Gifted Education funding ongoing. Although heralded as “increased funding and investments,” a large portion of the governor’s budget recommendation is required to fulfill statutory formula requirements such as enrollment growth and inflation, as well as previously enacted increases, such as the scheduled Additional Assistance and teacher compensation allocations. The governor also includes additional funding for some new initiatives and existing programs. Although this funding is needed, it’s not included in the base formula funding and is grant-based, meaning not all schools receive it and the funding is vulnerable to cuts in future years. This includes increases for Results-Based Funding, the School Safety Program, and new programs like Project Rocket (3-year grants to struggling schools) and Arts Education.
JLBC’s Baseline budget includes their revenue projections as well as spending increases required by statutory funding formulas, previously enacted appropriations, and mandatory obligations. Senate Republicans highlighted their priorities, which also include full restoration of Additional Assistance and addressing capital needs. Additionally, their budget includes increases for special education and contemplates $125 million in ongoing and one-time tax cuts.
Where we Stand...
This session, our message is simple: The state budget surplus should prioritize education, not tax cuts. Although the Senate is contemplating additional tax cuts, we are hopeful they’ll direct any and all funds necessary to meet the needs of Arizona’s students. While targeted investments are important, Arizona still needs significant, long-term, sustainable additional revenue to make it a competitive state to attract and retain teachers.
Bills to Watch…
With budget talks focused on targeted investments, Stand is looking forward to important improvements in special education, high school success, and supporting the state’s most vulnerable students. In addition, the state’s outdated English Language Learner laws have one more hurdle to be completely modernized.
SB1277 appropriation; child care waiting list (Boyer) Appropriates $5 million to provide child care subsidies to low-income working families and reduce any waitlist.
SB1442 high school success program; appropriation (Bowie) Establishes $15 million, 5-year grant to support High School Success programs to improve graduation rates and access to rigorous coursework.
SB1060 special education; group B weights (Allen) Allocates $5 million for extraordinary needs related to educating students with disabilities. Also, increases weights in order to generate additional formula funding.
HCR2001 English language education; requirements (Fillmore) A ballot referral to the 2020 general election, reforms and modernizes requirements for English Language Learners by ensuring access to high-quality, research-based curriculum and instruction.