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Goddard says teacher contracts can be adjusted for extra pay

Arizona school districts and charter schools are being told they can amend teacher contracts to provide increases in pay and benefits that were funded by the state budget but approved later than usual by the Legislature.
Attorney General Terry Goddard on Sept. 6 issued a formal opinion saying the raise would not violate the Arizona Constitution’s so-called “gift clause,” a prohibition on gifts of public funds.
Some school districts had approved teacher contacts for the current school year before the Legislature settled on spending figures and approved a new state budget in late June. In the interim, that left districts not knowing how much state funding to expect.
The state budget ended up including a $100 million appropriation for additional compensation for public school teachers and other non-administrative personnel.
Districts by law must approve new budgets by July 15, but those budgets have to be drafted and advertised in advance.
Because of the uncertainty, the Arizona Education Association, a union whose 34,000 members include 28,000 teachers, suggested that districts include “contingency language” in teacher contracts so pay scales could be raised if the state provides additional dollars.
Mr. Goddard’s opinion said salary increases stemming from the Legislature’s appropriation of additional funding for public schools are permissible because they serve a public purpose.
The $100 million appropriation “serves the valid public purposes of encouraging the retention of qualified and experienced public school employees and inducing other qualified and experienced public school employees to relocate to Arizona,” Mr. Goddard wrote.
Another constitutional prohibition against increasing compensation to a public officer after services have been rendered doesn’t apply to teachers or other non-administrative school employees, Mr. Goddard said.
Mr. Goddard said his opinion applied only to contracts executed before the budget was passed. Contracts executed after the budget’s enactment presumably incorporated the increases funded by the Legislature, he said.
The opinion agreed with one issued by lawyers for the Washington Elementary School District.
The opinion number is I06-003.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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