Legal Advocacy

Public education plaintiff group files capital lawsuit against Arizona Legislature

Public education plaintiffs are speaking up against the Arizona Legislature for turning its back on public school districts, and ignoring the obligation to adequately fund public schools under a 1998 court ruling.

Attorneys representing the plaintiff group include Hogan and Mary R. O’Grady from Osborn Maledon, filed the lawsuit on Monday, May 1, 2017 on behalf of public school districts across the state. The plaintiff group includes the Arizona School Boards Association, Arizona Education Association, Arizona School Administrators, Elfrida Elementary School District, Chino Valley Unified School District, Crane Elementary School District, Glendale Elementary School District and Kathy Knecht, a private citizen who resides in the city of Peoria.

Instead of prioritizing public education for funding, the Legislature has cut $4.56 billion dollars to public schools since 2009. And those cuts have never been restored.

These cuts don’t account for the effects of inflation or growth in the student population. And while the dollars are gone, the needs and services these funding sources paid for continue to exist across the state. State leaders have ignored this obligation far too long, they have lost this fight once, and it is time to step up and adequately fund public schools according to the law.

Some background: Tim Hogan, attorney for the Arizona Center for Law in Public Interest sued the state over the same issue in 1994, successfully arguing that relying on local taxpayers to pay the bill by passing bonds to cover school-maintenance costs put schools in low-income areas at a disadvantage which violates the state Constitution. A settlement agreement in 1998 included $1.3 billion in one-time money to bring buildings to state standards, and about $200 million a year to schools for soft capital for necessities such as textbooks, buses and technology. Since then, the Legislature has gradually continued to axe the program, even after the Great Recession the cuts continue to increase year after year.

Capital Lawsuit Plaintiffs Speak Up

Tim Hogan, Co-counsel, Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest

Arizona Education Association, Joe Thomas, President

Crane Elementary School District, Robert Klee, Superintendent

Glendale Elementary School District, Mike Barragan, Associate Superintendent

Chino Valley Unified School District, John Scholl, Superintendent

Jill Barragan, Private Citizen

Kathy Knecht, Private Citizen

ASBA engages in litigation and legal advocacy that supports the association’s Political Agenda. The Political Agenda is decided by ASBA membership in the Delegate Assembly process. All legal actions must also be supported by ASBA’s Board of Directors.

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