House defeats bill allowing lawmakers to urge attorney general to investigate public schools | Kingman Miner Daily
PHOENIX — A handful of Republican House members joined all minority Democrats on Wednesday in rejecting a bill that would have allowed a lawmaker to seek an attorney general’s investigation into public schools they say violate the law .
Opponents said it would have unfairly penalized students and teachers for policies beyond their control.
Republican Rep. Steve Kaiser of Phoenix said the measure he sponsored was necessary to ensure local school boards followed the law. Many Republicans have been angered by school boards’ actions to combat the coronavirus pandemic, though he hasn’t specifically said that’s what prompted his legislation.
The measure would have added public schools to the list of government entities that can lose a portion of state-shared tax revenue if the attorney general finds they violate state law and refuse to change policy. . Counties, cities and towns are currently subject to the 2016 law which has resulted in more than 20 investigations.
The penalty for the schools would have been the loss of 10% of their Class Site Fund money, a pot of about $600 million a year in sales tax revenue that K-12 schools receive for things like teacher salaries and operations.
“No one should be above the law, but in particular no government entity should be above the law,” said Republican Rep. John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills. “It’s about keeping government entities within the law.”
Kaiser’s bill would have initially covered public charter schools. But Kaiser removed them from the proposal.
Democratic Rep. Kelli Butler of Paradise Valley said the mere threat of an attorney general investigation that could jeopardize school funding could prompt a school district to change its legal policy.
“I’m just concerned that it creates a situation where any member of this body could harass a school for a rule that they think is wrong,” Butler said.
Five Republicans voted against the measure, including House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Rep. Michelle Udall, who is seeking her party’s nomination for superintendent of public instruction.
Udall noted that in addition to teachers’ salaries, money from the classroom site fund can be used to reduce class sizes, intervention services, dropout prevention and other support services. student support.
“It’s important that we hold people accountable, especially if they break the law,” Udall said.
“However, we should hold those who break the law accountable, not the children or other adults in their care.”