TUCSON – A federal judge has ruled against Gov. Doug Ducey in a lawsuit over Proposition 123.
Arizona voters narrowly approved the measure in 2016.
“Proposition 123 was, basically, we get into the state land trust, infuse a whole bunch of money into the education system,” said Pima County School Superintendent Dustin Williams. “Get teachers into the classroom and provide money to students.”
But shortly after it passed, Arizona resident Michael Pierce sued Ducey. He claimed the governor dipped into the land trust without prior congressional approval.
This week, U.S. District Judge Neil Wake ruled against the governor.
“The State of Arizona has twice- in 2012 and again in 2016 – amended its constitution to allow greatly increased withdrawal of School Land Trust funds without congressional consent as required by the Arizona Enabling Act,” Judge Wake wrote. “The state and its officers took those monies illegally and spent them.”
Ducey’s Communications Director Patrick Ptak issued a response from the administration on Twitter.
“This decision is terrible and will be overturned on appeal,” he wrote. “Rarely before have we seen such a blatant disregard of facts, precedent and common sense to push forward the agenda of one biased, activist judge.”
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said the ruling will not affect current or future Prop 123 funds for schools.
“Proposition 123 was approved by voters to pay schools what they were owed, and these critical dollars will continue to flow to Arizona schools until funding expires in 2025,” she said in a statement.
Williams said the decision shows the state needs to head back to the drawing board when it comes to funding education.
“We really have to start thinking about a sustainable funding mechanism, through some sort of taxation that’s fair. And not just on homeowners but corporations, as well,” he said. “Something that’s fair and manageable, but sustainable; and something that we know that we can trust and back on.”