Court strikes down latest Arizona school plan.

Position::Supreme Court

It took three years to craft, nearly a month of fractious legislative debate and a looming June 30 deadline for Arizona lawmakers to pass school finance reform.

But the state Supreme Court in June rejected the Legislature's latest plan - the third since 1994 - and gave lawmakers 60 days to write a new one or risk shutting down the state's public schools.

The state's high court in 1994 declared funding school construction through local bonds unconstitutional. The failed measure, Students First, would have created a $372 million a year state-financed system allowing school districts to "opt out" and continue local bonding if school boards and voters approve.

But the court, in a unanimous opinion, said it does not meet the requirement of a "general and uniform" school system.

"Students First will necessarily cause substantial disparities between public school districts," the court said in its opinion. "Those disparities will result not from factors such as parental influence, family involvement, voter willingness to incur debt for public schools, a free market economy or housing patterns. Rather the disparities will result from the funding mechanism chosen by the state. The Arizona Constitution forbids that result."

Lawmakers will head back into special session during the height of the campaign season. The court's Aug. 15 deadline comes just days before many public schools are scheduled to reopen and just about three...

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