Arizona Revised Statutes- §5-522 Holds the Key to the Future of AZ Education

by Gayle Plato-Besley, M.Ed.

The Arizona Lottery may be the best chance at directly defraying the state budget deficit. All the distribution of the funds is determined by state statute. This is a voluntary activity, not a tax.

How can Lottery Funds be used and redistributed with a restructuring of the statute? Would a voter initiative help or can the legislators make a move toward resolution?

Total Money to Date: $2,208,815,700
Total Money this Year: $474,478,400 (FY08)

“Last fiscal year, the Arizona Lottery had nearly $473 million in sales, of which 6.7 percent was distributed to retailers, 7.5 percent went for operating costs, 30.5 percent was used for programs and 55.5 percent was paid out in prizes,” Art Macias, Executive Director of the Arizona Lottery.

Mr Macias discussed the lottery as a funding option for the state budget crisis with a reporter at the Yuma Sun:

Asked whether he thought the Legislature would look to the lottery as a source of revenue to help alleviate the state’s budget deficit, Macias said that it is a concern….That makes it vital, he said, that community members communicate to their legislators the importance of the lottery-funded programs. Lawmakers don’t hear often enough how the lottery benefits the community.


Phoenix area school districts range in size, socio-economic make-up and services offered. Consistently high achieving districts in the northeast valley are seen as the communities of the ‘haves’ v. the ‘have nots’. Yet, Cave Creek Unified, Paradise Valley Unified, and Scottsdale Unified face just as many issues of voter rejection of bonds and overrides. Voters don’t like waste and they watch for it.

Parental involvement can be too much at times, with many school council meetings about budget or programming brimming with people. These school districts are known for Excelling schools, A+ rated administrators, programs, and staff, with lots of competition amongst each to lure students in the door. Some schools have experienced waiting lines during Open Enrollment application times.

Savvy helicopter parents, with 401Ks flat lining and mortgage equity evaporating, hover at the bus stop and student drop off gates. They are talking about class size, favorite programs, and teacher ratios like bookmakers for the Super Bowl.

What are the public schools of upscale communities going to do when the state money is dried up? Frontline programs circling for final call include enrichment and support services such as  teacher aides, prevention and counseling programs, but also basic teaching fundamentals like some special education services and  All-Day Kindergarten.  But with all of the concern over testing for accountability, how does a school account for the apples and oranges of results coming over the next few years?  If some children had more class time and support, the ones to follow will have had totally different learning environments.  AIMS cannot adapt to the validity issue. How will the ‘haves’ perform when they become the ‘have nots’?

I discussed the budget concerns with a number of the northeast valley school district finance directors and administrators envisioning the cuts to come. I asked each to highlight how All-Day Kindergarten funds might be hit, how each district is tackling the budget, and what they see as the real pitfalls.  The administrators  responded last week and I thank each for their time.

Here are their own words:

Tom Elliott, Assistant Superintendent Business Services, Paradise Valley Unified School District:

PV just had a renewal of its K-3 override and it called for full day kindergarten, so by law we could not eliminate it even if we wanted to do so.

We do have a process that we are using to deal with potential budget reductions.  The process calls for regularly scheduled meetings with administrators, a parent committee, a committee of bargaining group leadership as well as the board.  We have been at it since September.

Our district lost its M&O override election in November so we need to cut $5 million just because of that alone.  The funding of education in Arizona is about to take a step back of about ten years.  The cuts will be substantial and will affect everyone.  Programs will be drastically reduced or lost altogether.  These cuts will permanently change how we do business in PV.  I am not sure everyone has a grasp on the size of the cuts coming and the impact they will have.  We will be years recovering from what is about to take place. (January 19, 2009)

Dr. Kent Frison, Associate Superintendent of Operations and Finance, Cave Creek Unified School District #93:

CCUSD uses its K-weight funding to pay for all of our 19 Kindergarten teachers. Cutting all of the funding means a reduction of approximately $981,000. It would affect the district’s ability to offer full-day kindergarten. No one knows for sure when it will be, but indications are next school year.

Our Administrative Team, which includes all district administrators, is in the process of developing a contingency plan for budget reductions, when needed. This plan would then go to the Governing Board for approval.

In my opinion, the only way to take on an additional program without the source of funding that normally comes with it would be to make an equivalent amount of budget expenditure reductions somewhere else in the budget and use those funds to pay for it. (January 22, 2009)

Sherry Celaya, Director of Finance Scottsdale Unified School District:

If SUSD loses full day kindergarten funding we will lose 51 teaching positions.  This will take effect immediately at the start of the 2009-10 school year. SUSD has multiple teams working currently in regard to budget cuts and upcoming budget changes.

The only way we could continue to accommodate full day kindergarten is through our K-3 Override.  Moving full day kindergarten to the K-3 Override will negatively impact the current class size ratios in grades K-3.

These cuts will have a very large negative impact on the way we deliver instruction and services.  The school districts need help. (January 16, 2009)

Gayle Plato-Besley, 44, is a writer, certified social studies teacher, and counselor with over 20 years experience working with children and families. Her experience includes work as a school counselor in local school districts, private practice, and a secondary level teacher of U.S. Government, Economics, and History. For more visit


  1. if you read the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, you will see why the “haves” in Paradise Valley will always do better no matter how much the school budgets are cut. Because what the kids get outside of school is more significant than what they get in school. Unfortunately for Arizona, the population has lots of lower income students that will never get the enrichment out of school that the PV kids always get (if the parents are comptent).
    Arizona legislators need to focus on getting results regardless of the numbers involved. Quality education and budget amounts are not necessarily locked together. Unless you are a hard core conservative that says “lets cut funding and hope for the best”. With the incompetent legislative leadership in this state we should pray for our schools, because with or without cuts, the schools will continue to fail us. Legislators get paid to solve problems and lead our state. They are woefully inadequate for the job and their incompetence is destroying our state. If they were true conservatives they would be able to spend less and produce results – instead, they will whine that they had to cut budgets and try and hide from the lack of results in education performance.

  2. This is simply FALSE.

    You are talking about securitizing the future revenues from the lottery.

    That means TAKING A LOAN.

    Then, if lottery receipts are not sufficient to pay the loan + current obligations, GUESS WHO PAYS?

    The taxpayers.

    Loans (or bonds) are FUTURE TAX DOLLARS spent NOW.

    That’s all they are. Anyone who claims otherwise is lying.

  3. As far as a set back of 10 years, Mr. Elliot may want to check his facts. Total per pupil spending since 2001 has risen 73%.

    Here are Arizona school total per pupil expenditures since 2001:

    2001 $3,921
    2002 $4,707
    2003 $5,073
    2004 $5,403
    2005 $5,762
    2006 $6,295
    2007 $6,775

    A cut of $1,000 per student (about the proposed cuts on the table now) puts the average student back 2 years.

  4. Observe-

    No, I am NOT saying we should follow the idea set forth by Mrs. Napolitano. Just a plan to borrow on the lottery is not enough. it is a band aid. It is a lie. I agree with you on that.

    I AM saying we need to restructure the statute and funnel monies differently. If the legislature can consider pulling programs and the funds of school tax credits, it can rewrite the lottery law as it stands.

    How does the average Arizona family feel about the idea that one dime of The Pick money went to fund light rail over teacher aide time or state medical care for poor children? This is not a political party issue. It is about logic and realistic ways to support the least of us without sticking it to the best. It won’t fix everything and cuts will happen, but we are letting this great revenue option be frittered away on less than critical services. Read the statute- too much goes to the wrong things.

    How many Arizonans would willingly approve a freeze of money to transportation that comes from lottery revenue? What if that small step could help schools not implode?

    How many Arizonans would agree to a new scratch ticket structuring where the funds went straight to current health programs and say Head Start? It may not be trendy for a republican to say this stuff, but we want to help the needy and offer public education too. Only a fringe element does not want public services, and none of those fringe run ANYTHING in the legislature.

    Republicans have to QUIT complaining and look at the situation. Unless you plan on serving one term only and are willing to slash and burn (a valid option), your talk is useless. WORK the problem.

    I am saying with across the board cuts, we can also look at restructuring HOW we use the money voluntatrily given. It is a NO BRAINER.

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