Lessons From the Past Promises for Public School Funding
In 1998, with great fanfare, Governor Jane Hull signed Students’ FIRST legislation. After four years of a lawsuit and court orders, this bill eliminated local property taxes as the main revenue stream for new school construction and promised to invest state dollars into both construction and school facility maintenance and repair.
No reliable revenue source was ever created for this investment. Instead, it was financed simply from the state general fund, relying on growth from the economy.
Unfortunately, what was approved by the Arizona Supreme Court and presented as a state commitment, dwindled and virtually disappeared as state revenues got tight and Governors and legislators made other investments a higher priority.
In a still pending case, several school districts sued the state of Arizona in 2017, claiming the state reneged on the commitments it made in 1998.
Without a reliable funding source, just as the promised funding for Students FIRST went unfulfilled, the same thing will happen to promised funding for teacher pay.