Educators say $526 million in state budget for Arizona schools is a start

The state Legislature approved $526 million for education funding in the newly-approved state budget and teachers believe it's a good first step.
Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 9:58 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Lawmakers approved a nearly $18 billion budget in the early morning hours on Thursday to avoid a government shutdown. As part of that approved budget, more than half a billion dollars is going to school districts. “We just have a long way to go,” Save Our Schools Arizona director Beth Lewis said.

Lewis was hoping lawmakers would agree to over a billion dollars of ongoing funding for Arizona K-12 schools. So while Lewis is grateful for the $526 million approved by the Legislature for this year’s budget, it’s hard for her not to look at that number as a missed opportunity. “It’s enough to move us probably from last-funded in the nation to maybe 45th or 46th,” Lewis said.

Arizona Education Association president-elect Marisol Garcia says a lot of that money will go toward teacher salaries. There will also be an additional $100 million distributed to special education and $50 million to vulnerable and underserved communities. “A lot of our students really come to school needing more services and smaller class sizes,” Garcia said. “Additional staff, counselors, nurses, librarians, and other things that have been cut in the past.”

As a former public school teacher, Garcia’s grateful that more of an emphasis has been placed on public schools. She’s also grateful that politics were able to be largely put aside when it came to educational issues in our state. “This shouldn’t be about winning elections, making donors happy, sending out flyers saying that you did something,” she said. “It should be about making sure every student has a quality education.”

On that, Rep. Reginald Bolding of Laveen, the top Democrat in the House, and House Majority Leader Ben Toma, a Republican from Peoria, couldn’t agree more. “This was something that we wanted to foundationally walk back and say at the end of the day, our K-12 education has to be taken care of,” Bolding said. “And it absolutely was.” “This is more than half of our ongoing capacity that’s going to K-12,” Toma added. “It’s a big deal.”