The Arizona Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit filed by five school districts, the Arizona School Boards Association, the Arizona Education Association and several individuals alleging that the current state budget should have included a full inflation adjustment in funding for K-12 public schools, says the Arizona Daily Star. The court refused, without comment, to hear the special-action lawsuit filed directly with the supreme court. As a result, the plaintiffs in the case will start over by suing in trial court. Approximately $55 million in additional funding is at stake. Legislators who supported the current budget claim the state cannot afford any further spending.
The suit argued that a voter-approved 2000 state law requires the Legislature to adjust the full basic per-student funding for inflation. Legislators included an inflation adjustment for only a small part of school funding. However, a brief filed on behalf of top Republican legislative leaders countered that the wording of the 2000 law actually gave lawmakers leeway on which approach to take on inflation funding. The Arizona Attorney General’s Office argued that intervention by the courts in the Legislature’s appropriations process would unconstitutionally violate the doctrine of separation of powers between the branches of government. In urging the supreme court to accept the case, the plaintiffs said that the dispute would eventually end up in the appellate courts anyway. “If the court declines jurisdiction, years will probably elapse before the question is finally decided. At that point, the courts will be unable to undo the damage that has been done to children’s educations while the issues are being debated,” alleged the plaintiffs.
Source: Arizona Daily Star, 9/21/10, By Associated Press
[Editor's Note: Arizona has been the target of a number of school funding suits in recent years. In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 split, ruled that the state should have another chance to argue that its English Language Learner (ELL) programs are adequate despite a ruling from a U.S. district court in 2000 that the state's funding scheme for ELL violated the federal Equal Educational Opportunity Act (EEOA). The majority found that factual and legal changes that have occurred since the 2000 ruling should entitle the state to argue that, under federal court rules, it is entitled to relief from the court’s order. A summary of the opinion is available below.]