Education Funding Increase-Nov 2015

Education Funding Increase-Nov 2015

The State Legislature passed a package of legislation that will increase funding to schools by $3.5 Billion over 10 years and settle a years-old education funding lawsuit.   This was a win for the students, the Governor, the Legislature, and Republicans.  Interestingly, all of the House Democrats and all but three of the Senate Democrats voted against the package even though the AZ Education Association, which represents teachers from all over the state, and the AZ School Board’s Association support the plan.

The package of legislation, which was signed by the Governor, will:
1.     Increase funding to the schools by $3.5 Billion over the next 10 years using money from the State School Fund and the State’s General Fund and guarantee inflation adjustments for the future.  Specifics can be found HERE.
2.    Settle the years-old lawsuit, so that the legislature can move forward negotiating other reforms that will reward high performing schools, improve student performance and require a higher percentage of the money be used in the classroom and on teacher pay.
3.    Place the portion of the funding increase that comes from the State School Fund on the May 17, 2016 ballot for voters to approve.   Placing this on the ballot was legally necessary.
4.    Put in place protections in case the economy tanks and future adjustments need to be made.  Specific protections can be found HERE.

The legislature will be going back into its regular legislative session in January.  If you have ideas for legislation, please contact me at or 602-926-5413.

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!

Together, we can make a difference.

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Education Funding Q&A- October 2015

Education Funding Q&A- October 2015

EDUCATION FUNDING Q&A from constituents,
plus election info:

How much money do AZ public school districts get?
According to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, the AZ Dept. of Education, and the AZ Auditor General’s reports,

The state average = $9,096/student/year
Funding varies by school district depending on federal funding, student needs, etc.

I represent people that live in Peoria & Dysart School Districts.
Peoria Schools FY2014 average = $7,800/student/year
Dysart Schools FY2014 average = $8,500/student/year

If a class has 25 students,
$ Per classroom in Peoria = $195,000
$ Per classroom in Dysart = $212,500

Avg. Teacher Salary in Peoria = $41,500
Avg. Teacher Salary in Dysart = $47,000

Thus, the amount left per 25 student classroom AFTER teacher pay is deducted is:
Peoria Schools: $153,500 per classroom after teacher pay deducted
Dysart Schools: $165,500 per classroom after teacher pay deducted

My Property Taxes are too high. Why do the schools keep asking for override/bond tax increases?  Why did they ask for increases in the good financial times prior to the recession and budget cuts?  

Bond/Override elections have been around a long time in both good and bad financial times.  In many cases, like in Peoria and Dysart, voting yes will increase your property tax bill.   For details on your school’s override/bond election and how much it will affect your property taxes, visit your school district’s website or ask your elected school board members.

Does the legislature fund the schools enough?

K-12 education is, by far, our state’s largest expense.  This year the legislature voted to spend 42% of our state general fund on K-12 education.  The next highest expenses are 13% on healthcare for the poor and 11% on prisons. In comparison, CPS, which protects abused children, got 4%.  Note: In addition to the money that comes from the state legislature, schools also get property taxes, sales taxes, and federal funding.

The legislature and governor are currently looking at ways to increase education funding without raising taxes and without neglecting other areas, like CPS, which has asked for more money to protect abused children.

Unlike the federal government, the state legislature has to balance the state budget each year.  We need to balance the needs of the entire state.  If we give more in one place, we have to take it from somewhere else.  Although 2015 state revenues are higher than expected, much of the extra revenues came from capital gains and is not expected to continue, so it would be unwise to commit one time funds for ongoing expenses.

Why is so much of the override money being spent on a half day of kindergarten instead of for teachers in grades 1-12?  Why did the school superintendent get a raise if funds are so short?  
I suggest you contact your school board members on these questions.  They are the ones that vote on how the money we give them is spent.

Why is the legislature disputing the education funding lawsuit in court?

The legislature is fighting the education lawsuit in court because we believe we did the right and sensible thing during the recession.  In addition, the consequences of losing the lawsuit would wreak havoc on our state budget and force us to raise taxes or cut vital funding in other areas.  In 2000, the voters approved a ballot measure that requires the state to increase education funding by approximately 2% per year.   The law says that the increase can be based on the base funding level OR the school transportation funding level.  During the recession, the legislature based the increase on the less costly transportation funding level because we had limited funds.  Prior to that and since then, we paid on the higher amount and during the good times we even paid more.  The schools sued and it’s been in the courts ever since.

Override Election Info:
Mail-in Ballots: Mail in before Oct. 29th or drop off at polls on Nov. 3rd.
Nov. 3rd Polls open 6am-7pm. Bring ID.
Polling locator: (location is probably DIFFERENT than normal):

I hope this information helps you.  Feel free to contact me anytime at or 602-926-5413.

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August 2015

August 2015

HEALTHCARE UPDATE: Governor Ducey’s new plan for AHCCCS, Arizona’s healthcare program for low-income citizens, promotes personal responsibility and helps encourage able-bodied adults to transition into careers.

Currently, 1 out of every 4 Arizona residents receives free healthcare through AHCCCS (AZ Healthcare Cost Containment System).  Of those, approximately 350,000 or 22% are able-bodied adults.  Able-bodied adults do NOT include children, the elderly, the disabled, pregnant women, the seriously mentally ill or single parents with children 6 or under.  Under the current system, recipients pay no insurance premiums and most pay no co-pays.

A.  Governor Ducey’s proposal requires able-bodied adults to:

1.  Pay up to 3% of their annual household income on co-pays for certain services.  For example, if the recipient goes to the emergency room for something a primary care doctor or urgent care could handle, a co-pay would be required.

2.  Pay up to 2% of their annual household income into a personal health savings account that can be used for non-covered services, like dental or vision care.

3. Enroll in school or training or actively seek employment if not already employed.

B.  Governor Ducey’s proposal includes adding apps, texts, and an online chat system, so that patients can receive text alerts for appointments, manage medications, and use chat to ask questions instead of waiting on hold or in long lines.

C.  The proposal also increases the use of modern tools to better detect fraud, waste, and abuse.

D.  Community meetings will be held on August 18th at the:
Disability Empowerment Center
5025 E Washington St, Suite 200, Phoenix, AZ 85034
Session 1: Tuesday, August 18, 2015 12:30-2:30 PM
Session 2: Tuesday, August 18th, 2015 3-5pm

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June 2015

June 2015


1.  I’m pleased that the Council of State Governments, a national organization comprised of legislators from across the nation, voted to include my roof-top solar consumer protection legislation, SB1465, in their suggested state legislation portfolio.

2.  To better understand my legislation and to hear my thoughts on the EPA’s proposed rule affecting Arizona, please click HERE to see my interview on E & E TV.

3.  APS is offering a new Solar Partner Program to 1,500 homes in select neighborhoods, including some areas in Sun City.  The homeowner gets rooftop solar at no cost to them plus a monthly bill credit of $30/month  for 20 years.   APS owns the system and covers the cost of installation and maintenance, so there are no lease payments or up front costs.

Participation in the program is limited to customer homes that:

·         Are located in specific neighborhoods
·         Have west to southwest-facing roofs with no significant shading
·         Have appropriate roofing materials such as typical shingle or flat concrete tile
·         Have enough roof space for solar panels
·         Do not already have rooftop solar

To learn more about this program and to see if your home qualifies,

EDUCATION UPDATE:   How much does each student receive per year?

It seems like every news article I read claims different K-12 education funding levels in our state.  Some only report funding from the state general fund, but that is not an accurate picture. It is important that you understand how much students receive from all sources.

According to AZ Dept. of Education reports, total funding for district schools =
$9,096 /student per year in fiscal year 2014 *.

Funding breakdown per student per year in fiscal year 2014:
Local revenues including property taxes =         $4,155/student/year
County revenues =                                                   $   295/student/year
State Funding =                                                        $3,453/student/year
Federal Funding =                                                   $1,194/student/year
TOTAL =                                                                   $9,096/student/year

(*This is an average.  Some school districts receive more and some less depending on several factors)

Together, we can make a difference.


Debbie Lesko

Arizona State Senate
Legislative District 21

God Bless America 
Follow Debbie! 
bbie Lesko | Arizona Senate 

1700 W. Washington St. S302 | Phoenix, AZ 85007 | 602-926-541

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May 2015

May 2015

May 2015

Water and Energy.  What can be more important in Arizona?  We rely on both every day. That is why I am passionate about these issues and why I requested and was assigned to serve on the Senate Water & Energy Committee where I work to help ensure that Arizona continues to have enough of both.

Does Arizona have enough water?

That is the question on a lot of people’s minds and one I had answered at a recent workshop I attended, presented by the AZ Department of Water Resources and the Central Arizona Project.

The answer is yes, at least for now.

Unlike California, which has imposed mandatory water restrictions, Arizona has done a much better job of planning for long term drought.  Here in Arizona , thanks to long-term planning and innovative water management, the state is prepared to handle the effects of the current drought.  In fact, Arizona has been planning for a potential shortage for decades and has stored excess water underground since 1996.

If the drought continues and Lake Mead falls below an elevation of 1075?, which may happen as early as 2016, then cut backs from the Colorado River to farmers in central Arizona will occur and water rates will increase, but water to city residents will not be reduced.

Will the EPA’s new proposed carbon rule affect utility customers in Arizona?

The answer is definitely yes.

Sometime this summer, the EPA is expected to decide if they will implement the new rule.  According to the Arizona Corporation Commission, the EPA’s plan will require all Arizona coal plants to shut down by 2020, adversely impacting the reliability of electric service and  jeopardizing national security.  Currently, coal produces 80% of Tucson Electric’s power, 53% of SRP’s power, and 40% of APS’s power. Solar can not make up the difference and converting to natural gas in that short of a time period may not be possible and will cost huge amounts of money.  This rule, if implemented by the federal government will dramatically increase our utility rates and negatively impact the economy of our state.  That is why I have been an outspoken critic of the rule and support Arizona’s intent to join other states in suing the federal government if the rule is implemented.

For more information, please contact me at or 602-926-5413.

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State of Education in Arizona- Budget Update 4-16-15

State of Education in Arizona- Budget Update 4-16-15

The state of Education in Arizona – April 2015

K-12 Education makes of 43% of the state general fund spending.

Below is a list of spending by Agency:

Department:            Total:                       Percent:
K-12 Education    $ 3,889,569,400     42.6%
Universities    $ 666,900,700     7.3%
Corrections    $ 1,035,423,600     11.3%
AHCCCS    $ 1,205,197,900     13.2%
Health Services    $ 603,053,500     6.6%
Economic Security    $ 496,195,500    5.4%
Child Safety    $ 357,132,600     3.9%
Other    $ 872,381,400     9.6%
Total    $ 9,125,854,600     100.0%

K-12 Education Spending :
Fiscal Year    K-12 Funding    Percent Increase
FY 2012    $3,374,706,200    N/A
FY 2013    $3,464,988,900    2.68%
FY 2014    $3,667,831,200    5.85%
FY 2015    $3,808,392,700    3.83%
FY 2016    $3,889,569,400    2.13%

*Source: Joint Legislative Budget Committee

Key Points:
1)    Each budget cycle, the Legislature is tasked with setting priorities and determining how to spend the State’s precious resources that it receives from taxpayers. As you can see the state spends nearly half of its $9.1 billion budget on K-12 education and higher education.
2)    Since FY2012 the state has continued to invest more and more resources into K-12 education. As the economy continues to rebound more resources have been allocated to support our teachers, families and students.

Higher Education Funding:

Since Fiscal Year 2008, total funding to Community Colleges and Universities has increased $1.2 Billion.  In Fiscal Year 2016, because of budget constraints, the state reduced funding to Universities by $99 Million, which accounts for a 2% decrease of their total funding.

*Source: Joint Legislative Budget Committee

Key Points:
1)    During the Great Recession the state was forced to make hard choices, while still supporting strong investments in our higher education system.
2)    From FY2008 to FY2015 the state made $342 million in reductions to higher education, while the university system raised tuition by $832 million during that same time period. The university system increased tuition by more than double the level of reductions that occurred.
3)    Universities have seen an overall increase in revenues between FY2008 and FY 2015 of over $1 billion.

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Feb. 2015

Feb. 2015

February 2015

1.  Governor’s Ducey’s budget proposal focuses on putting more money in the classroom.  His proposal increases K-12 classroom funding by $160 Million and reduces K-12 non-classroom funding by $113.5 Million, for a net increase in education funding. Unfortunately, communications from the school superintendents focus only on the cuts and don’t mention the proposed increases.  Telling parents about proposed cuts to non-classroom funding and then not telling the parents about the proposed increases to classroom funding is disingenuous.  Documentation from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee shows that both Peoria Unified School District and Dysart School District will have net increases in funding.  According to the latest AZ Auditor General Report,  Arizona schools spent 53.8% of their funding in the classroom, compared to the national average of 60.9%.  I’m a Peoria School District parent.   In a recent survey, Peoria Unified School District asked parents if they prefer a 4 day school week over cutting personnel such as school bus drivers and cafeteria workers. Perhaps a better question would be …do we prefer cutting administration costs over cutting school bus drivers and cafeteria workers?  I have a feeling the answer would be yes.

2.  My legislation, SB1446, was signed into law by Governor Ducey on February 24th.  This legislation, requested by contractors, and negotiated on with the cities and AZ Department of Revenue will dramatically simplify tax reporting for thousands of contractors across the state.  This legislation passed with both Republican and Democrat support.  In fact, only one legislator out of 90 voted no.   It is my intent to continue my work on this important reform in years to come, so that all contractors will be able to pay tax on materials only, just like contractors in 46 other states already do.

3.  SB1465, my consumer protection legislation, passed out of the Senate 26-2 with both Republican and Democratic support. This legislation requires common sense disclosure on roof-top solar leases and finance agreements.  Because of complaints, including THIS ONE from my constituents,  U.S. Congressmen from across the nation have notified federal regulators, the AZ Attorney General has investigated and filed judgements, and the AZ Corporation Commission has opened a docket to investigate.

4.  My “Protect the PTA Fundraiser” legislation, SB1267, passed out of the Senate 28-1.  This legislation requires the state to grant waivers to the Federal Smart Snack program, so that school PTAs can continue to sell items, such as sno-cones, after school to raise money for their schools.  Starting last fall, PTAs were no longer allowed to sell snacks after school that weren’t on the federal approved healthy snack list.  This legislation will fix that problem.

As always, if you have questions or concerns, please contact me at or 602-926-5413.

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January 2015

January 2015

January 2015

I was sworn into office on January 12th as your new State Senator and I am off and running working hard for you.

I am very pleased that I have been named the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.  The Senate Finance Committee hears legislation dealing with taxes and public pensions….two very important issues.

I am also a member of the Appropriations, Health, Energy & Water, and State Debt and Budget Reform committees.

On Jan. 16th Governor Ducey revealed his budget proposal which is available HERE.  I am pleased that the proposal requires government to live within its means and moves vital school funding out of administration and into the classroom.      As a member of the Appropriations Committee I will be reviewing the budget more closely in the coming weeks.

This year I will once again be sponsoring “big issue” legislation and legislation requested directly by my constituents to solve real-life problems they have encountered.  I will update you on my legislation in future newsletters.

This year, I will also be heading up a Public Pension Reform Working Group whose goal will be to find ways to help sustain the retirement system for our firefighters and police, while protecting the taxpayers.  This is an extremely important issue and one that I am pleased to be a part of.

I ran for office to make a difference.  I am willing to take on big issues and fight for what I believe is best for our state and nation.  At the same time, I sponsor legislation to solve the smaller problems too.

Please feel free to contact me anytime at 602-926-5413 or

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December 2014

December 2014

Lesko Legislative Update

December 2014

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays!

I am looking forward to being together on Christmas with my family. My three children, my two grandchildren, my mother, my brother, my sister, my in-laws, and spouses and friends will join my husband and me for a memory-making, wonderful time.

On January 12th I will be sworn in as your new State Senator.

I’ll be doing the same job with a different title.  I’ve already moved into my new Senate office. I am located in Senate Room 302.  My phone number and email address will remain the same.

My new assistant, Bobby Bravo, will be answering your calls.

I’m looking forward to my job as the new Senate Finance Committee Chairman.  Our committee will review and vote on tax and public pension legislation.

I also will serve as the Vice Chairman of the State Debt & Budget Reform Committee and as a member of the Appropriations Committee, Energy & Water Committee, and the Health & Human Services Committee.

I hope you know that I am always available to talk with you.  Please don’t hesitate to give me a call.

Here’s wishing you a wonderful Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!

Together, we can make a difference.

Posted in News | Comments Off on December 2014
West Valley Women Gov. Brewer & I Get Tax Reform Done!

West Valley Women Gov. Brewer & I Get Tax Reform Done!

I am absolutely elated that my tax reform legislation passed out of the legislature with bipartisan support and only one no vote!

This historic legislation, spearheaded by the Governor’s Office, is supported by virtually every business and employer group in Arizona, both small and large.

The legislation will streamline and simplify Arizona’s sales tax system in a way that has been tried unsuccessfully for decades.  This time we finally got it done.

Arizona has the most complicated sales tax system in the entire nation.  This legislation will fix that problem and should save you taxes as well.

Under the current system, businesses that operate in more than one city, such as your A/C contractor or Circle K, have to remit multiple tax forms and checks to each city and the state every month.  Under the new legislation, the business will remit their sales taxes for the state and all the cities to just one location, either online or via one simple form, to the Arizona Department of Revenue.

Under the current system, businesses are subjected to multiple audits by the state and multiple cities.  Under the new legislation, a business will be subjected to only one single audit.

Under the current system, a service contractor, like your plumber, has to pay sales tax on 65% of the contract price which includes both labor and materials. The contractor then passes that tax onto you.  Under the new legislation, the service contractor will pay sales tax on the materials only and you, the consumer won’t be charged a separate tax amount at all. No longer will the service contractor have to submit tax forms to every city and no longer will that contractor have to purchase tax licenses from every city.

The legislation goes into effect January 1, 2015.  Between now and then I will continue to work with all those involved to make sure that this is done right.

As always, I’d love to hear from you.  Contact me anytime at or 602-926-5413.

Together, we can make a difference.


Debbie Lesko

Arizona State Representative
Legislative District 21

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