Students FIRST editorial 2/25/98

purias Member Photo

Clipped by purias

Students FIRST editorial 2/25/98 - 8 EV The Arizona Republic Wednesday, February...
8 EV The Arizona Republic Wednesday, February 25, 1998 Proposed solution to school funding short shrifts kids By Myrna Sheppard The clock ticks louder toward the June deadline ordered by the courts to fix the school funding mess, but instead of placing students first, the new school funding proposal from Arizona lawmakers puts business first. If school districts use a local option offered in the proposal to help build schools, there could be a property tax shift that would eventually raise property taxes in the Gilbert School District by one-third for homeowners. It could be much higher in districts that have a larger business community. This part of the plan unveiled last week is just one piece of the proposal that makes vague promises aimed at answering the court mandate to fix the school funding crisis, and it appears that state leaders went through the same routine from the past few years by deciding how much they want to spend and then figuring out a plan to match. So far, they seem open to taking further input before slam-dunking the plan through the Legislature. Elements of the plan include undefined adequacy standards, a small per-student allotment for technology, a school building-maintenance fund, a new facilities fund, and a local option for capital override elections for facilities needed beyond state standards. Gilbert construction needs alone will amount to at least $25 million a year for the foreseeable future. Schools throughout the state spend an estimated $500 million yearly, excluding interest, on construction. The distribution of the inadequate amount that has been proposed will depend on a complicated application process through a state board. Districts will have to get in line to beg for approval for schools that were needed yesterday and that may be funded who knows when. This proposal is brought forward during the best of economic times, which raises the question of what safety net will be there to get schools built if the economy goes south. At that point, we may have to rely on slim local options allowed in the new proposal. This leads us to the local options, according to the proposal, that schools will have to turn to if the district chooses to go beyond the unknown standards. Capital overrides are possible, but in the new plan, general obligation bonds are out. It must be pointed out that the Supreme Court did not ban general obligation bonds for districts that want to turn to local voters for options beyond the standard. And since they are a more stable funding mechanism when compared with the red tape and higher costs of leasepurchase override FIIHICVfllfBB 1 options, it is difficult to understand why the proposal doesn't allow the districts the flexibility to do either, or both. Developer impact fees are another method that would add to reasonable local options. In any case, these local options will be more of a burden than ever on average taxpayers, since the proposal brings business down from the 25 percent tax assessment ratio to a 10 percent ratio for all property classes. This would cause the bond capacity to drop from a current $137 million to $103 million in Gilbert, a consideration for general obligation bonds, and according to bond analysts, would raise homeowner taxes from future school construction elections by 33 percent. So, it s possible that our community could be hit once with less dollars to build schools with and then with higher taxes to boot. It's unclear whether legislative leaders have the votes to get the plan they have dubbed "students first" into law, so it's still possible that a decent solution could arise from the ashes of the initial proposal. Credit must be given to Sen. Tom Freestone who is one of the key Republican senators who have raised important issues. If the current concepts stay in the final version, lawmakers need to nail down standards to a definable quantity, allow enough funding to allow all districts to get to those standards, and provide flexibility in local control efforts to go beyond standards without using the entire effort as a smoke screen to allow business to get tax breaks. An idea that has the support of many would equalize the capital funding system by having the state pitch in when local efforts can't cover growth or school maintenance. The current state proposal does the opposite, as big brother will provide the minimum and than local options are radically cut to get the rest done. Local control over building schools may almost entirely be a thing of the past. East Valley school district residents and voters should be heard clearly asking state lawmakers such as Gov. Jane Hull, Superintendent of Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan, and Speaker Jeff Groscost, to come up with a reasonable solution that is geared toward preservation of local control, to benefit our districts in getting desperately needed schools built in a timely fashion. We need to ask them to build a new framework for a plan that can work. The clock is ticking. Myrna Sheppard is a member of the Gilbert School Board. the

Clipped from
  1. Arizona Republic,
  2. 25 Feb 1998, Wed,
  3. [First] FINAL EDITION,
  4. Page 188

purias Member Photo
  • Students FIRST editorial 2/25/98

    purias – 16 Apr 2018

Want to comment on this Clipping? Sign up for a free account, or sign in