As Maricopa Unified School District debates seeking a bond election for the construction of a second high school, the state approved an education budget that will chip in more than $32 million toward that cause.

HB 2749, the education bill, was approved by the Legislature May 24 on a 31-28 vote. All the “aye” votes were Republicans. The state budget was signed by Gov. Doug Ducey May 31.

The measure directs the School Facilities Board to use $3.75 million to purchase property for a new school in Maricopa. It also allocates $14.23 million for MUSD in fiscal year 2020 and again in fiscal year 2021 to go toward the construction of a high school.

“Maricopa is one of the fastest growing cities in the state, so I’m proud that this year’s budget includes funding for a new high school in the city,” Maricopa resident Rep. Bret Roberts (R-District 11), stated in a press release. “The funding for Maricopa’s new high school, over $32 million, certainly fills a need in our community and demonstrates Republicans’ commitment to K-12 education.”

Democrats and education leaders argued the education funding, in the second year of Ducey’s three-year 20-by-2020 plan, did not go far enough, especially in light of the state’s $1 billion surplus. State Superintendent of Public Education Kathy Hoffman called it “disheartening” that many funding requests were ignored. Education spending remains below its pre-recession level, behind by about $700 million.

“If the state cannot bring itself to fully fund education during a year with a massive budget surplus, when will it do so?” Hoffman said.

“There’s a lot for residents of LD-11 to like in the Republican budget, including this funding for Maricopa’s new high school,” Rep. Mark Finchem (R-District 11) stated. “It’s a shame that not one Democrat voted for the K-12 education budget bill, which also included funding for teacher raises.”

The money earmarked for MUSD will not completely fund a new school but is a boost. The governing board is contemplating bond options of $75 million, $50 million or $35 million. If the board decides to ask voters for a bond, it would likely be a special election this year.

“Students in Maricopa will soon have a new high school thanks to this year’s budget, which includes over $6 billion in education spending,” Sen. Vince Leach (R-District 11) said. “I’m pleased that the budget will address the needs of a rapidly growing area of our district.”

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