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Officials: Education to be a top priority for Arizona Legislature in 2016

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey gives his state-of-the-state address in the House of Representatives at the Arizona Capitol, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — With Arizona Legislators preparing to return to the state capitol, several lawmakers said education is likely to be a strong focus again during this upcoming year.

Proposition 123 will be a major topic in Arizona Legislation this year, after it passed through the Legislature last fall. The proposition would provide $3.5 billion to K-12 education over the next 10 years.

Republican lawmakers will begin pushing the proposition to Arizona voters ahead of May 17, when it will make its way onto ballots.

Some Democratic lawmakers, such as House Minority Leader Eric Meyer, do not believe the proposed education funding still is not enough Mayer said lawmakers should redirect some of the expected cash surplus this upcoming year to address the state’s teacher shortage.

“I would love to invest some of those dollars and some of those could be those one-time dollars into teacher mentoring programs and teacher recruitment to restore teachers to our classroom,” he said.

Republican Senate President Andy Biggs said lawmakers should take note of what happened in 2008 before dipping into the projected surplus.

“You’ve got people saying, ‘Oh man we’ve got all this money, let’s go spend it,’” Biggs said. “Does anyone remember what happened after we did that? It’s called a $3 billion dollar deficit.”

When it comes to schools that are underperforming, Republican House Speaker David Gowan said it’s up to school boards to improve school district performance.

“I think it’s up to them to put their best step forward and make those schools come up to par,” Gowan said. “They’re expected to do that, that’s what they’re hired for by the people.”

Another issue likely to come up this session is career and technical education. Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs would like to prevent future cuts to CTE programs. Republican Speaker Gowan said they will take a look at the issue and take a look at it early.