Arizona Gov. Ducey to roll out new K-12 school funding proposal

Jun 3, 2015, 9:40 PM | Updated: 9:40 pm
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PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey plans to roll out a new proposal Thursday to boost funding for the state’s K-12 school system by using cash from
the state’s land trust.

The Republican governor will reveal details of his plan at a news conference at a Phoenix high school, spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said Wednesday evening.

“The governor is going to announce a plan to get more money, new money, to
schools,” Scarpinato said. “A substantial amount of new money to K-12
education, without raising taxes.”

The proposal is the latest in a series of moves by the governor as he tries to
change the way the state funds its K-12 schools and increase money going to
classrooms. But it comes after he signed a budget for the coming year that cut
taxes while essentially leaving school funding flat.

Ducey met with schools chief Diane Douglas and key school superintendents
Wednesday, and his staff met with other education leaders, Scarpinato said.

Scarpinato declined to provide additional details in advance of the governor’s
announcement.

The state land department manages about 9.2 million acres deeded to the state
by the federal government when Arizona became a state. The land is held in trust
to provide revenue for K-12 schools and other beneficiaries.

Major changes in how the trust operates would require voter approval, so Ducey
would need to ask the Legislature to refer the proposal to voters or back a
signature-gathering drive. Changes to the Enabling Act that granted the land to
Arizona also could be required.

Plans to tap into the estimated $5 billion value of the land trust have been
floating around the state for the past year.

Chuck Coughlin, a key adviser to former Gov. Jan Brewer, has been one key
backer of the plans.

He said Wednesday that one of the proposals would generate $200 million in new
school funding a year over 10 years. That plan would allow the land department
to change the way it disposes of land from a straight auction of raw land to
other arrangements that could let the state profit from development.

Ducey, who touts his business experience and wants government to run more like
private industry, may see the proposal as a way to boost the value of an
underperforming asset, Coughlin said. And to those concerned that revamping the
land trust could harm schools in the long run, he said Ducey could have an
answer.

“The argument would be, that would be modernizing to fulfill that
obligation (to schools),” Coughlin said.

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Arizona Gov. Ducey to roll out new K-12 school funding proposal