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): http://recorder.maricopa.gov/pollingplace/

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

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