Schools Sue State

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Arizona Schools announced a lawsuit today against the state for failing to provide adequate funding for capital budget items, such as buses, building maintenance, books and technology. We’ll hear from Tim Hogan of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, the lawyer representating the plaintiffs, and Mike Barragan of the Glendale Elementary School District, one of the plaintiff schools.

TED SIMONS: GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO ARIZONA HORIZON I'M TED SIMONS. ARREST SCHOOL DISTRICTS TODAY ANNOUNCED A LAWSUIT AGAINST THE STATE FOR FAILING TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE CAPITAL BUDGET FUNDING WHICH GOES TO THINGS LIKE BUSS, BUILDING MAINTENANCE, BOOKS AND TECHNOLOGY. HERE THE TALK ABOUT THE SUIT IS THE ATTORNEY REPS THE PLAINTIFF, TIM HOGAN. AND MIKE BARRAGON. GOOD TO HAVE YOU BOTH HERE. TIM, WHY THIS LAWSUIT? WHY NOW?

TIM HOGAN: WELL, BECAUSE WE'RE STARTING TO MOVE INTO A CRISIS MODE HERE WITH PUBLIC SCHOOLS. THE STATE HAD IN PLACE SINCE 1998 A PROGRAM IN RESPONSE TO PREVIOUS ARIZONA SUPREME COURT DECISIONS TO PROVIDE FUNDING FOR CAPITAL NEEDS OF SCHOOL DISTRICTS TO MEET MINIMUM ADEQUACY STANDARDS. OVER TIME THE STATE RENEGED AND IN 2013, REPEALED THE TWO MAJOR FUNDING SOURCES FOR ONGOING CAPITAL NEEDS SUCH THAT WE'RE BACK WHERE WE WERE IN 1991 WHEN WE ORIGINALLY FILED A LAWSUIT ALLEGING THE SAME THING.

TED SIMONS: AND THE COURT RULED IT WAS UNCONSTITUTIONAL BECAUSE SCHOOLS IN LOW-INCOME AREAS WERE NOT ON THE SAME PLAYING FIELD AS SCHOOLS IN HIGH INCOME AREAS.

TIM HOGAN: THAT'S RIGHT. YOU HAVE SKILLETS WITH A LOW PROPERTY TAX BASE, TAKES AN ENORMOUS TAX EFFORT TO GENERATE ANY KIND OF FUNDING. SCHOOL DISTRICTS WITH AMPLE PROPERTY TAX BASE TAKES A VERY LOW TAX EFFORT. IT'S AN INEQUITABLE SYSTEM. IT'S INEQUITABLE TO THE SCHOOL DISTRICT, TO THE KIDS, AND IT'S INEQUITABLE TO TAXPAYERS, AN ELEMENT WE'VE ADDED TO THIS LAWSUIT BECAUSE SCHOOL DISTRICTS ARE NOW BEING FORCED TO ISSUE BONDS TO TAKE CARE OF THINGS THE STATE SHOULD BE PAYING FOR, LIKE RENOVATIONS OF SCHOOLS. SO YOU HAVE TAXPAYERS PAYING HIGHER TAXINGS THAN THEY SHOULD BECAUSE THE STATE SHOULD BE PAYING FOR THEM.

TED SIMONS: TALK ABOUT YOUR SCHOOL DISTRICT AND WHAT YOU'RE SEEING.

MIKE BARRAGAN: SINCE 2009 THE GLENDALE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DISTRICT HAS BEEN REDUCED TO 32 MILLION DOLLARS. CAPITAL FUNDING PAYS FOR TEXTBOOKS, TECHNOLOGY, SO YOU MAY RECALL THAT WE HAD THE CLOSE TWO SCHOOLS BECAUSE OF STRUCTURAL DEFICIENCIES. THAT'S A CHALLENGE. DISTRICTS HAVE CHALLENGES AND HAVE NEEDS THAT AREN'T GOING AWAY.

TED SIMONS: WHEN YOU TALK THE LAWMAKERS ABOUT THESE CHALLENGES, WHAT DO YOU HEAR? WHAT THE THEY SAY?

MIKE BARRAGAN: WE'VE HEARD DIFFERENT THINGS. F, SOMEBODY SAID MAYBE THE DISTRICT SHOULD HAVE SAVED A LITTLE MORE. BUT THE GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE OF THE CUTS. THE CUT IS ABOUT 85 PERCENT. IT IS A LITTLE BIT MORE THAN THAT. LET'S ASSUME THAT YOU'RE MAKING A THOUSAND DOLLARS AND YOU'RE CUT 85 PERCENT. THAT $150 IS WHAT YOU'RE LEFT WITH TO MAKE ENDS MEET AND TO BE TOLD YOU SHOULD HAVE SAVED A LITTLE MORE. IT'S HARD THE MAKE ENDS MEET WHEN YOU'RE ONLY GETTING A FRACTION OF YOUR FUNDING.

TED SIMONS: TALK ABOUT HOW LONG YOU'VE THE DEAL WITH THIS AND THIS A FACTOR NOW-- HOW DO YOU BUDGET WHEN YOU'RE NOT SURE WHAT'S COMING IN?

MIKE BARRAGAN: THAT'S A GREAT QUESTION. WE'VE BEEN REDUCED BY 29 MILLION DOLLARS, SO DISTRICTS HAVE TO GET MANAGER UP. RECENTLY WE ADOPTED OUR FIST READING ADOPTION THAT COST ABOUT $2.5 MILLION. THE FIRST TIME IN 9 YEARS THAT WE HAVE DONE A TEXTBOOK ADOPTION. SO WE WANT THE MOVE ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT FORWARD BUT HOW DO YOU DO SO WHEN THERE'S NO MONEY TO BUY THE TECHNOLOGY YOU NEED, THE TEXTBOOKS YOU NATIONWIDE TO MOVE THOSE KIDS FORWARD.

TED SIMONS: THE CONSTITUTION TALKS ABOUT A GENERAL UNIFORM PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM. THAT WAS PART OF THE ORIGINAL SUIT BACK IN THE 90'S. IS THAT PART OF THIS SUIT?

TIM HOGAN: VERY MUCH SO. THE SUPREME COURT BACK IN THE 90'S THROUGH A SERIES OF THREE DECISIONS GAVE MEANING TO GENERAL AND UNIFORM. THE GENERAL AND UNIFORM CLAUSE. THE LEGISLATURE IS SUPPOSED TO ESTABLISH AND MAINTAIN A GENERAL AND UNIFORM PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM. AND THE SUPREME COURT SAID THE STATE IS SUPPOSED TO PROVIDE THE FUNDING TO SCHOOL DISTRICTS IN ORDER FOR THOSE SCHOOL DISTRICTS TO HAVE THEIR BUILDINGS AND FACILITIES MEET THE MINIMUM ADEQUACY STANDARD. SO THERE IS NO STATE FUNDING ANYMORE. THEY'VE REPEALED IT ALL. IF YOU WANT FUNDING FOR CAPITAL THESE DAYS FOR REPAIRS AND RENOVATIONS, YOU HAVE TO GO TO YOUR TAXPAYERS IF THEY WOULD ALLOW IT OR YOU HAVE TO DIP INTO YOUR OPERATIONAL BUDGET AND THAT HAS IMPACTS ON STUDENTS AND TEACHERS AND CLASS SIZES AND EVERYTHING ELSE.

TED SIMONS: AND THAT TAKES YOU BACK TO THE ORIGINAL LAWSUIT.

TIM HOGAN: IN MANY WAYS THE SITUATION TODAY IS WORSE THAN WHEN WE FILED THE FIRST LAWSUIT.

TED SIMONS: HOW LONG IS HAVE YOU BEEN NOW AT THE DISTRICT?

MIKE BARRAGAN: FOUR YEARS.

TED SIMONS: BETTER, WORSE, SAME? SAME STORY?

MIKE BARRAGAN: DEFINITELY WE'RE TRYING THE MEET ALL OF OUR NEEDS AND SO WE'VE MADE SOME DIFFICULT DECISIONS. I THINK AS MR. HOGAN HAS POINTED OUT GLENDALE HAS MOVED MONEY THAT HISTORICALLY GOES INTO TEACHER SALARIES. AGAIN, THE EXAMPLE THAT I JUST GAVE WAS YOUR TEXTBOOKS.

TED SIMONS: YEAH, TIM, I SEEM TO UNDERSTAND THE COMPLIANCE ISSUE. COMPLIANCE INVOLVED A ONE TIME SETTLEMENT. IT INVOLVED CERTAIN NUMBERS ANNUALLY FOR MAY NOT, TWO HUNTS A YEAR FOR SOFT CAPITAL. YOU'RE SAYING THAT MONEY-- THEY'RE SIMPLY NOT COMPLYING?

TIM HOGAN: IT'S GONE. THEY REPEALED IT. THEY DECIDED IN 2013 THAT THEY WERE GOING TO REPEAL IF LARGEST COMPONENT OF THAT. WHICH IF IN EFFECT TODAY WOULD BE PROVIDING 25TH MILLION DOLLARS ANNUALLY. THEY JUST OUT RIGHT REPEALED IT. IF SCHOOL DISTRICTS WANT MONEY FROM THE STATE, THE STATE HAS APPROPRIATED A TOTAL OF 17 MILLION UP TO 32 MILLION TO THE SCHOOL. FACILITIES BOARD TO DISTRIBUTE TO SCHOOL DISTRICTS AROUND THE STATE. COMPARED TO HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN NEEDS OUT THERE FOR SCHOOLS.

TED SIMONS: I KNOW THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE SAID A LAWSUIT WOULD CREATE PARALYSIS AROUND THE ISSUE OF DOLLARS FOR EDUCATION. ARE YOU CONCERNED? YOU'RE A PLAINTIFF HERE, ARE YOU CONCERNED BY BRINGING THIS UP WE COULD HAVE A SITUATION SIMILAR TO INFLATION FUNDING WHICH WENT OR FOR YEARS UNTIL WE HAD THE PROP 123 SETTLE?

MIKE BARRAGAN: FOR FAR TOO LONG WE HAVEN'T FULLY FUNDED IS, SO I THINK IT IS TIME TO ADVOCATE FOR THE 1 MILLION STUDENTS WHO ATTEND TRADITIONAL PUBLIC SCHOOLS. SO THIS IS AN ISSUE FACING EDUCATION. WE NEED TO CONTINUE TO HAVE THOSE DISCUSSIONS BECAUSE THERE'S A HUGE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM WHICH IS WE'RE NOT FUNDING EDUCATION PROPERLY. SO WE NEED TO ADDRESS THE SCHOOL FINANCE SYSTEM.

TED SIMONS: COMMENT AS WELL ON THE GOVERNOR'S IDEA IS YOU FILE SUIT AND ALL OF THE SUDDEN THAT HOCKS EVERYTHING UP.

TIM HOGAN: THINK WE'RE AT PARALYSIS. I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU WOULD CALL THIS SITUATION BUT PARALYSIS. WE'RE NOT SEEING ANY SIGNIFICANT NEW EDUCATION FUNDING.

TED SIMONS: IS THERE A DOLLAR FIGURE IN THE SUIT?

TIM HOGAN: THERE'S NOT A DOLLAR FIGURE BUT YOU CAN GET SOME IDEA ABOUT HOW MUCH IS NECESSARY ON AN ANNUAL BASIS. IF YOU LOOK AT BOND ISSUANCES BY SCHOOL DISTRICT. SO THAT CAN VARY PRETTY SIGNIFICANTLY BUT IT'S ANYWHERE FROM 300 TO 500 MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR. THEY REPEALED $250MILLION IN FUNDING. THAT'S OVER 300 MILLION DOLLARS ANNUALLY.

TED SIMONS: LAST QUESTION, TIMETABLING. WORST TO FOLLOW HERE?

TIM HOGAN: WE FILED THIS IN MARICOPA COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT. HOPEFULLY SINCE WE HAVE A BODY OF SUPREME COURT DECISIONS SAYING WHAT THE STATE IS SUPPOSED TO DO WE'LL BE ABLE TO GET THROUGH THIS RELATIVELY QUICKLY. BUT THE FIRST TIME AROUND IT TOOK SEVEN YEARS FROM THE TIME WE FILED THE LAWSUIT, TO THE TIME THEY FINALLY ENACTED STUDENTS FIRST.

TED SIMONS: AND YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS?

MIKE BARRAGAN: WE HOPE THAT WE CAN WORK TOGETHER TO BRING SOME REAL SOLUTIONS TO ARIZONA SCHOOLS. I THINK IT'S TIME TO CONFRONT THE ISSUE.

TED SIMONS: GENTLEMEN, THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE. THIS IS ARIZONA HORIZON. COMING UP NEXT, HOW THE STATE IS DOING IN INTERNATIONAL TRADE.

Tim Hogan: Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest
Mike Barragan: Glendale Elementary School District

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