On January 13th, 2023, Governor Katie Hobbs released her fiscal year 2024 executive budget priorities. To the relief of many educators, parents, and communities, she’s made it clear that her priorities will include a great emphasis on the investment in public education.
From AZGovernor.gov, “Arizonans have made clear it’s time to rebuild and reinvest in public schools. The Executive Budget ensures students are prepared for the future and that teachers and educators have the resources they need to teach the workforce of tomorrow. Strategic investments from the budget will raise state per pupil funding from $7,999 to $8,250.”
The education-focused items in the proposed FY2024 budget:
- $1.5 billion in savings for taxpayers over the next ten years by repealing Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA). Arizona voters rejected the expansion of ESA in 2018 when they voted no on Prop. 305, Expansion of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Referendum. In 2022, the Republican-controlled legislature acted against the wishes of nearly two-thirds of voters by passing HB2853, a universal voucher expansion. Since then, the ESA program has siphoned money from public schools and will leave an estimated $200M deficit for public education this year.
- $332.2 million deposit in Building Renewal Grant funding to address crumbling and inadequate school infrastructure. Many districts around the state have campuses in desperate need of repair. This investment will help to ensure that our community’s children can attend schools that are safe for learning.
- $198.6 million to retain critical education staff, increase the Base Support Level for schools by 3.04%. We know that teachers and support staff are not only underpaid but undervalued. This investment will be a step toward compensating educators at a level that retains and brings quality talent into the classrooms.
- $172.7 million in new school construction for three schools already in progress, construction of nine new schools, and land and site condition projects. This is another investment in school infrastructure that will help relieve some of the crowded classroom conditions that have a negative impact on students’ ability to learn.
- $40 million to expand the Arizona Promise Program and make higher education more accessible for an additional 10,200 students regardless of financial background or resources.
- $40 million to establish a new tuition scholarship program for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival eligible students. This investment ensures that DACA recipients have the necessary resources to continue their education.
- $20.5 million to establish a new Dual Enrollment support and advancement program. This program will help expand Dual Enrollment opportunities for students across the state, providing the chance to earn college credits while attending high school.
- $15 million to address the enrollment increase for the Arizona Teacher’s Academy. An investment in our educators like this will help to increase the number of teachers in the classroom, directly impacting our students.
- $13 million to provide Free or Reduced Price Lunch at schools in low-income areas. To thrive in the classroom, children need other basic needs met. This investment will ensure that students around the state have nutritious meals to fuel their bodies and brains.
- $10.9 million to adjust District Additional Assistance formulas for inflation and reinforce critical funding for classroom resources such as textbooks, materials, and technology.
- $10.3 million in restored STEM and workforce aid funding to Maricopa, Pima, and Pinal Community Colleges. This investment will help provide more opportunities for students to learn STEM-based trades and prepare them for the workforce.
- $14 million to double investment in rural community colleges. This will provide students in rural communities with additional opportunities for local colleges.
- $5 million to support the development of fast and reliable broadband service in schools. Schools are now relying more on technology, so fast internet is necessary to facilitate learning.
- $4.4 million to increase the state’s funding to students with a developmental disability, emotional disability, mild intellectual disability, or specific learning disability.
- $1 million in one-time funding to develop and implement a plan to conduct in-person inspections of school facilities. This will help ensure that Arizona schools meet basic safety and health standards.
An investment in education is an investment in our students, communities, and economy. While this budget may be dead-on-arrival in the Republican-controlled legislature, it seems to be a good indication that Governor Hobbs intends to support Arizona’s public education system better.