Sierra Vista Unified School District et al. v. State of Arizona
This longtime Center case is yet another example of the Center's mission to defend public education. Although the Center won a 1994 victory requiring the state to adequately fund school buildings and facilities, the legislature still refuses to do so. The Center is comitted to force the state to provide the funding needed for a proper education.
In the 1994 Center case, Roosevelt v. Bishop, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the Arizona Constitution requires the state to fund school districts in a manner that will allow them to have the buildings, facilities and equipment necessary for student achievement of the state's academic standards. In response to this ruling, the legislature enacted Students First in 1998, a funding formula devised to bring school district buildings and facilities up to and maintained at minimum standards.
The legislature, however, has repeatedly failed to provide the full funding required under this building renewal formula (and in fact, has provided full funding under the formula only one year since 1998).
The Center filed this case to compel the legislature to fully fund Students First and thereby comply with the Arizona Supreme Court's 1994 ruling. The plaintiffs are school districts that do not have sufficient funds to maintain their school buildings and facilities. A judgment in favor of the school districts was reversed by the Arizona Court of Appeals in 2003. The case was then remanded to determine whether any of the plaintiff school districts had buildings and facilities that fell short of the minimum standards and if so, whether they had insufficient funding to repair them.
After an evidentiary hearing in 2009, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Craig Blakey ordered that before the plaintiff school districts could pursue relief in court, they had to establish that they have exhausted all appropriate sources of state funding and been denied emergency funding by the School Facilities Board. As of October 1, 2010, both of the plaintiff school districts, Sierra Vista and Tempe Union High School District, have submitted emergency funding applications to the School Facilities Board and, if rejected, will return to court.