Gov. Doug Ducey wants to give $1.8B of land funds to Arizona schools

Jun 4, 2015, 3:54 PM | Updated: 6:07 pm

PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said Thursday he wants voters to approve
his plan spend more money from the state’s multi-billion dollar trust land
account to boost funding for K-12 schools.

The proposal would funnel about $1.8 billion in new cash into the state’s
schools over five years and smaller amounts in the following five years.

The state’s permanent land trust endowment now stands at $5.1 billion, but the
balance would still grow slightly even with the increased withdrawals Ducey is
proposing. Schools would get between $320 million and $375 million in extra
funding in each of the first five years if voters approve the proposal in 2016,
according to a Ducey staff analysis.

Schools would get about a $300 boost to the $3,400 per student they now get
each year.

Ducey said he hopes his proposal kick starts settlement talks over a
long-running lawsuit between the Legislature and school districts over missed
inflation funding payments early this decade.

Ducey has been laying the groundwork for a series of education reforms in the
past month, including an overhaul of a complex school funding formula.

“As you know, I believe funding is only one part of the equation to improving
our schools,” Ducey said. “Other reforms are needed, including ensuring money
is spent effectively to get the result we want, empowering our principals,
turning around the worst-performing schools and ensuring they get new
management, giving teachers the respect and the reward they deserve and the
tools they need to do their jobs.”

But getting more money to schools — Arizona is at the bottom of the list
nationally in per-pupil spending — was his message Thursday. He promised that
the language he asks voters to approve will not allow other state school funding
cuts. He also pledged to fund voter-required yearly inflation boosts.

“This is our demonstration of financial leadership for K-12 education, and I
think the language will be clear that we put to the voters that this will be
additional dollars for K-12 that will be protected, along with inflation
money,” Ducey said.

Reaction from educators and lawmakers was mixed.

Republican Sen. Don Shooter called the proposal a “fine idea, and a step in
the right direction.”

“Look, Texas has got oil, and we’ve got land,” Shooter said. “So why in the
hell are we setting on our assets, if you will, when the kids have a need here,
and we have to educate our kids.”

Democratic Sen. Katie Hobbs had unanswered questions.

“What happens after 10 years?” Hobbs said. “What happens if it doesn’t pass at the ballot
box? And what the hell is the connection between this and the inflation lawsuit
which he referenced twice during his remarks?”

Andrew Morrill, president of the state teachers union, the Arizona Education
Association, said he’s concerned about details of how the money will be

“Every school in Arizona, every public school, is underfunded right now,
drastically,” Morrill said. “Every teacher is in the bottom of state rankings
for teacher salaries. So a distribution that is broad, that doesn’t play games,
that is separate from a reform agenda that picks winners and losers, will be of
much more value.”

Dennis Hoffman, an economist at Arizona State University, said the governor is
making what appears to be a reasonable decision.

“We’re not going to spend it frivolously, we’re not going to throw it away,
it’s not going to go in the Colorado River and float away,” Hoffman said.
“It’s going to our kids. It’s going to improve the quality of our workforce.
It’s going to attract mobile capitol as we do that. I think it’s a very
reasonable argument.”

The state land department manages about 9.2 million acres Arizona got when it
became a state. The land is held in trust to provide revenue for K-12 schools
and 12 other beneficiaries, and proceeds from sales are put into a trust

The permanent land trust account is projected to hit $7.6 billion by 2020 if no
changes are made.

By law, 2.5 percent of the cash is sent annually to schools, about $80 million
in the current budget year. Ducey wants that increased to 10 percent for five
years, then 5 percent for the following five years.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

West Clear Creek Wilderness...

Woman falls to death off cliff in Arizona wilderness area

A 44-year-old woman fell to her death from a cliff in an Arizona wilderness area this week, authorities said Wednesday.
13 hours ago
(KTAR News Photo/Taylor Tasler)...

Here’s why gas prices are rising in metro Phoenix, across Arizona

Gas prices are surging in metro Phoenix and across Arizona and a fuel industry expert says there is a main reason for it.
13 hours ago
(Twitter Photo/@joss_berry)...
Kevin Stone

Aide to Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs resigns after controversial tweet

An aide to Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs has resigned after creating a controversy with a tweet in the wake of the Nashville shooting.
13 hours ago
(Arizona Department of Transportation Photo)...
Associated Press

Investigators cite driver fatigue as cause of deadly 2021 Phoenix milk tanker crash

A milk truck-tanker crash that killed four people and injured several others on a Phoenix freeway in 2021 was caused by driver fatigue, U.S. transportation investigators said Tuesday.
13 hours ago
(KTAR News Photo/Jeremy Schnell)...
Taylor Tasler

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs speaks on prison priority, problems and plans for reform

In an exclusive interview, Katie Hobbs spoke on why she has made state prisons a priority, problems she's encountered and plans for reforming the system.
13 hours ago
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...
SuElen Rivera

Phoenix restaurant owner says long ‘way to go’ following judge’s homeless encampment decision

A judge has ordered Phoenix to find a solution for a large homeless camp, but a local restaurant owner said it could be a while before progress is seen.
13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo by Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...
Cox Communications

Valley Boys & Girls Club uses esports to help kids make healthy choices

KTAR’s Community Spotlight focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley and the work to incorporate esports into children's lives.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
Gov. Doug Ducey wants to give $1.8B of land funds to Arizona schools