The plaintiff parties in Cave Creek v. DeWit, the K-12 inflation funding lawsuit originally filed in 2010, have tentatively confirmed an agreement with the governor’s office and legislative leaders regarding a resolution that will provide Arizona public schools with a portion of court-ordered funding in a timely fashion and meet the plaintiffs’ intent to, at a minimum, stabilize and sustain funding.
While this should not be viewed as solving Arizona’s long-term or short-term funding needs, or as a replacement for local funding mechanisms such as bonds and overrides, it is an acknowledgement of the fact that those needs cannot wait.
This is money owed to schools which have been underfunded since 2008, and a step in the right direction to adequately support our students and teachers. A combination of revenues from the state general fund and trust land permanent fund will be used.
The parties have agreed to key elements:
- A base level reset of $3,600 per student, an increase of $173 for each student and 72 percent of what the courts ruled at the appellate level – and what the plaintiffs demanded. Within two years, the base level will reach the full amount the court ordered.
- Inflation language (15-901.01) to continue as it currently exists (2 percent or the rate of inflation whichever is less) with compounding in perpetuity.
- Additional funds, in consideration of back pay, to be distributed annually:
- $50 million per year for the first five years
- $75 million per year for the second five years
This will account for 50 percent of what the courts identified was owed in back pay.
- No policy strings attached.
- Contingencies have been put in place to account for severe downturn in the state economy.
For a district of 10,000 students, the settlement would generate more than $2 million per year of revenue in the first year alone.
There is still much work to be done, and we continue to resolve specific matters of this agreement in order to ensure all details are final and executed. The next step will be approval by the Legislature in a special session, which will include referral of components of the deal to the ballot in a special election.