Legislature Needs To Fund Its Mandated Programs


Legislators are good at mandating projects for local governments and schools, but the grand idea gets muddled when no funds are provided to go along with the law.

Such is the case with the education of students who need to learn English. These students must be able to speak the language of the country to succeed. The legislature says schools must provide that education and they spelled out, with the help of the courts, how to do it by creating a new English Language Learners model program. Good for them, but they forgot to provide new money to pay for the teachers, classrooms, books and other costs that go into educating these students.

The Payson school district would need to spend some $565,000 -- $350,000 more than it is currently spending -- to accommodate the legislature's wishes. That means Rim Country taxpayers have to come up with the extra dollars.

The district would need to hire four teachers for the English Language Learners program to be able to provide four hours of classroom time per day to the district's 84 students who fall within the program's guidelines. If the school district does not comply, it faces penalties from the Arizona Department of Education.

Payson school officials and other school administrators around the state are hoping some kind of compromise can be reached to solve the funding problem.

Legislative leaders say they don't know where the money is coming from, but school districts will still be required to fund the program.

It seems to us if the legislature is going to mandate any type of program for school districts or local government, it also needs to find a way to pay for it.

Local districts and towns only have so much money to take care of programs already in place, much less fund new needs, which in some cases local officials already feel are being met.

Early during this legislative session, Arizona's governor, as a way of balancing the budget, was going to take prisoners out of state prisons and send them to county jails to avoid the expense of housing those prisoners. The burden of taking care of prisoners was being shifted from the state level to the local level and local taxpayers would be paying the bills.

The legislature cannot balance its budget by placing more financial weight on local school districts, county and town governments.

It needs to balance its budget by funding its mandated programs first and cutting its own budget, not messing up local budgets.

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