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Ducey signs education spending plan

Some teachers sleep while waiting in the senate lobby during early morning hours as Arizona state legislatures continue to debate the State's budget Thursday, May 3, 2018, at the Capitol in Phoenix. The budget gives teachers big raises but falls short of their demands for better school funding. The teachers, in the sixth day of classroom walk outs, have agreed to return to the classroom once the budget has been approved by the legislature. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Some teachers sleep while waiting in the senate lobby during early morning hours as Arizona state legislatures continue to debate the State’s budget Thursday, May 3, 2018, at the Capitol in Phoenix. The budget gives teachers big raises but falls short of their demands for better school funding. The teachers, in the sixth day of classroom walk outs, have agreed to return to the classroom once the budget has been approved by the legislature. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Gov. Doug Ducey has signed the K-12 budget after lawmakers worked through the night to pass the $10.4-billion spending plan that funds his promise to boost teacher pay this fall and in the following two school years.

The Senate has already approved the entire budget, and the House is still working on five bills in the budget package.

Both chambers have approved the K-12 budget bill, which Ducey immediately signed.

Approved mostly along party lines in the House, HB2663 drew bipartisan support in the Senate, with Sens. Sean Bowie, D-Phoenix; David Bradley, D-Tucson; Andrea Dalessandro, D-Green Valley, and Steve Farley, D-Tucson voting in favor of the bill., which gives teachers a 9-percent boost in pay.

Democrats and Republicans both said the budget has come a long way from the 1 percent Ducey initially offered teachers in January.

And by 2020, funding for teacher pay will have increased by 19-percent over three years – thanks to roughly $644 million in new education funding, including $273 million in the next budget cycle.

The budget also allocates another $100 million to restore previous cuts to public schools, some made by Ducey, in funding for soft capital, which includes things like text books and computers.

Ducey

and Republican legislators repeatedly pointed to those dollars as another way school district officials could give teachers and support staff, raises. Passage of the budget in the Senate came after nine and a half hours of debate, a high stakes process that unfolded under the watchful eye of educators.

The final budget represents a 5.7 percent overall growth in spending from $9.8 billion in FY18 financed primarily through rosier projections.

Budget analysts and economists have grown optimistic about Arizona’s economic growth.

It also scrapes together funds by other means, including more than $100 million in dollars freed up as a result of a new vehicle registration fee.

Ducey  also gave up on several of his own spending initiatives, including a sizable tax break for veterans and more dollars for school resource officers, which was a part of his pitch for a series of school safety measures. The governor’s office boasts that the budget still leaves Arizona in a healthy financial state, as budget analysts estimate a $150 million structural balance even after all the spending.

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