Today the Maricopa County Superior Court issued a partial ruling in a lawsuit seeking to enjoin Proposition 208, the education tax initiative. The plaintiffs argued that the “no supplant” clause of the statute was unconstitutional because it unduly limited the Legislature’s authority to appropriate monies for education. That clause reads:
Notwithstanding any other law, the additional monies received by school districts, charter schools and career technical education districts from the student support and safety fund established by section 15-1281 and the career training and workforce fund established by section 15-1282 are in addition to any other appropriation, transfer or allocation of public or private monies from any other source and may not supplant, replace or cause a reduction in other funding sources.
The Court held that the plaintiffs were not entitled to an injunction because the “no supplant” clause does not affect the Legislature in the first place – it only affects school districts and charter schools. The Court reached this result through statutory interpretation.
But what superficially looks like a loss for the plaintiffs might actually be a tremendous blow to the schools. The schools now have ruling that: (1) allows the Legislature to reduce funding to schools as it sees fit, since the “no supplant” clause doesn’t affect the Legislature whatsoever; and (2) hamstrings the schools in what they spend money on. The proponents of Prop. 208 could not possibly have intended this result – but they were the ones who drafted the initiative.
Other parts of the litigation will continue. But right now, a majority of legislators are probably concluding they have the legal authority to reduce education funding without consequence because Prop. 208 funds will simply fill the void. It appears the schools have won the battle but lost the war.