Arizona Education Association

Summer 2017

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SUMMER 2017 | ADVOCATE 13 at the capitol F our Arizona public school districts and education advocates filed a lawsuit this past spring against the State of Arizona and the School Facilities Board for inadequate capital funding after lawmakers cut $2 billion since 2009 from the funds schools use to maintain buildings, buses, textbooks and technology to balance the state budget. "The cuts in capital funding can force a district to pull money used for hiring teachers and staff from it's maintenance and operations budget to fund capital needs", said Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. "When you give a child an option of you're going to have an air-conditioned room or you're going to have a teacher, that's a false choice for Arizona," Thomas said. "That's why we pay close attention to all of the funding resources, because when you drain one – as the state has done – it impacts all of the other ones." "Districts still have needs, and it's not only having highly qualified educators in the classrooms with the students, it's about having a safe environment for students to be in and that includes safe buses that function and air conditioners that work and electricity," Thomas said. "We've waited far too long for our policymakers to fund public education and unfortunately, we're in a situation now that we can no longer be patient," said Mike Barragan, associate superintendent of Glendale Elementary School District, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is focused on the Arizona Legislature approving a new state budget and has no immediate comment on the issue, said Daniel Scarpinato, media spokesman for the governor in an Arizona Capitol Media article. In past years, Ducey's budget proposals have not fully funded capital funding, and the governor proposed $17 million in capital funding for schools this year. "In Glendale in particular, we've lost about $29 million in capital funding since 2009," Barragan said before a news conference held by the plaintiffs at Landmark Elementary School in Glendale. "When you cut $29 million, we cannot expect not to have unexpected consequences. We believe we need to advocate for the over 1 million students who have chosen to attend traditional public schools." Landmark was one of the two Glendale schools that were closed for repairs in September 2016 after structural deficiencies were found during a weatherization project and further assessments showed damage to outside walls on all buildings on each campus. Students at Landmark Elementary School and Challenger Middle School returned to their campuses when repairs were complete in October. The plaintiff group includes the Glendale Elementary School District, Chino Valley Unified School District, Crane and Elfrida elementary school districts, Arizona School Boards Association, Arizona Education Association, Arizona School Administrators, Arizona Association of School Business Officials, and Kathy Knecht of Peoria and Jill Barragan of Laveen. Schools, Education Advocates Sue State of Arizona over Capital Funding By Lisa Irish, Tim Hogan speaks at the press conference with school representatives and education advocates standing in front of Landmark Elementary in Glendale.

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