Jan 18, 2024 - Politics

Hobbs and Republicans push conflicting education funding plans

School bus with money

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Just about everyone at the state Capitol agrees on asking voters to renew an expiring education funding measure, but Democrats and Republicans disagree on how much funding they should request.

Why it matters: Proposition 123, approved by Arizona voters in 2016, distributes 6.9% of revenues from the state land trust to K-12 education — about $300 million per year.

  • It will expire next year if not extended.

Driving the news: Gov. Katie Hobbs earlier this week announced her renewal plan, which would increase distribution from the land trust to 8.9% for 10 years. The money would be divided between:

  • General school funding: 2.5% (estimated $257 million annually)
  • Raise teacher pay: 4.4% (estimated $347 million annually )
  • Raise support staff pay: 1.5% (estimated $118 million annually)
  • School safety and security: 0.5% (estimated $39 million annually)

Reality check: Hobbs doesn't play an official role in referring the measure to the ballot. The state Legislature, where Republicans have a narrow majority in both chambers, can send it directly to voters without her signature.

  • Yes, but: Her support could help convince voters to get on board. The original Prop. 123 passed narrowly and then-Gov. Doug Ducey was a vocal advocate.

The other side: Republican leadership in November released its renewal plan, which would continue funding at 6.9%, but direct it all to teacher raises, resulting in about a $4,000 pay bump per teacher.

  • "I appreciate that the governor is embracing our idea to use a proposition to provide teacher pay raises. … And while we appreciate her input on the matter as a referral to the ballot, the issue is solely at the discretion of the Legislature, subject to voter approval," Senate President Warren Petersen said in a statement Tuesday.

What they're saying: Treasurer Kimberly Yee, who oversees the state land trust fund, called Hobbs' plan "dangerous and unsustainable" and said "it would break the bank."

  • Yee said she is recommending a decrease to a 4% to 5% distribution, which is in line with Wall Street return forecasting, she said.

What we're watching: Republican Rep. Matt Gress, who last year unsuccessfully pushed a bill that would have raised teacher salaries by $10,000, told the Arizona Republic boosting pay to combat a teacher shortage is "something we should be able to find bipartisan agreement on."

What's next: Sen. Christine Marsh, a Democrat and a former teacher of the year award recipient, will sponsor Hobbs' plan.

  • Republicans have not yet formally introduced a resolution with their plan.
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