Arizona has a $325 million budget surplus this year, and $450 million more squirreled away in the state’s emergency fund. These numbers sound like good things. Maybe now, Arizona can tackle their tuition problem.
For reference, despite a near-complete economic recovery from the 2009 recession, Arizona has done the least of any state to restore the budgets that were cut from primary and secondary education, nearly 45% of per-student state spending. Just this March, the budget they passed took away another $100 million from colleges and universities.
But Arizona lawmakers don’t see a reason to let that money out of the mattress now, and certainly not for schools.
“The narrative these folks continue to throw is that there’s a direct causation between funding of education and outcomes,” said Senate President Republican Andy Biggs about his state’s education supporters.
But teachers in Arizona, after five years of no raises and schools who can’t afford supplies and support services, are leaving. And parents and teachers say that the state is not providing what was voted on. The problem preceeds the recession. Last year, the Arizona Superior Court found that AZ legislators and the governor have ignored a voter approved mandate from 2000 to boost state aid in schools yearly to account for inflation, with a shortage by now of more than $330 million.
The governor’s plan is to tap land trust proceeds, but that would require a new course of voter approval, and no money would be generated until 2017. When the money is already visibly there to make up this shortfall today, why is the government refusing to do as its voters want and its future generation needs?