SAFFORD — Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan to fund public education is getting a welcome reception in the Gila Valley.
Pima Unified School District Superintendent Sean Rickert and Safford Unified School District Superintendent Ken Van Winkle both told Eastern Arizona Courier they support Ducey’s education funding proposal.
“Governor Ducey has consistently worked to make good on his election promise to provide additional funding for public education where possible,” Rickert said in an e-mail to the Courier. “Governor Ducey has earmarked $100 million in new spending for K-12 public schools.
“Arizona’s education funding system provides budget to schools through two methods. First, we receive funds based on enrollment as an entitlement. Each school receives a base support level amount times the number of students they serve. As the number of students increases, this number increases, so it is akin to an entitlement program. Second, we receive funds based on what is available. The total pot of this Additional Assistance is divided up across the state. The percentage of the student population a district serves determines the percentage of the pot you receive. The governor’s proposal puts funds toward the second funding approach. Schools generally prefer to see funds go to the first method, but additional funding is additional funding. These new expenditures provide much-needed funds to support the efforts of our schools to provide children with the high-quality education they deserve. I applaud the governor for his efforts.” Rickert said he would also like to see a voter initiative in 2020 to enact a 1.5 percent Education Sales Tax to replace the 0.6 percent Education Sales Tax in effect since Proposition 301 was adopted in 2000.
“Safford School District is excited for Governor Ducey’s plan to restore cuts that were made in the past as the economy in Arizona was at risk. The cuts made in the past by the Legislature have affected school district budgets drastically and basically tied our hands as we attempted to provide funding for salaries along with building and facility needs. Because of the drastic cuts in the past, SUSD has had to use the money we normally would have used for teacher salaries to instead buy furniture and equipment, computers, vehicles and make needed repairs to school buildings. This plan will help us take care of that problem,” Van Winkle said.
The Courier’s attempts to reach Thatcher Unified School District Superintendent Kevin Spiller and Fort Thomas Unified School District Superintendent Shane Hawkins for comment were not successful.
Ducey is proposing a restoration of $371 million in District Additional Assistance and Charter Additional Assistance, phased in over five years, beginning with $100 million in Fiscal Year 2019. Under Ducey’s plan, the funds will be permanent and flexible.
In addition, Ducey is proposing:
- $116 million for student growth and inflation
- $88.1 million in debt financing leveraged by $5.1 million from the General Fund to construct new schools or expand capacity
- $35.2 million for building renewal grants to improve or repair aging school facilities, plus $10 million in supplemental funding for additional grants in FY 2018
- $34 million for the second year of the teacher salary increase and moving the total increase into the base level to ensure it will be adjusted for inflation
- $4 million to continue expanding early literacy funding for all-day kindergarten and other critical early childhood programs
- $2.5 million to expand the Governor’s Partnership for K-12 Computer Science pilot program
- $2 million to fully fund large Joint Technical Education Districts (JTEDs)
- $7.6 million in other key education investments on information technology projects and assessments
“I encourage our state legislators to get behind the governor’s plan, work together to help make a difference for education in Arizona and allow schools to provide the best for students,” Van Winkle said. “I hope we will see a commitment to restore the formula. This restoration will assist us to build and improve schools, provide funding to allow us to take care of our facilities and improve salaries. The governor’s plan will provide for more funding than we have seen in a decade.”
For more information or assistance, contact Governor Ducey's press office: (602) 542-1342.