Saturday, September 9, 2017

AZ AG sues Regents over tuition

AG sues Board of Regents over tuition-setting policies reports Katie Campbell in the Arizona Capitol Times. (Howard Fischer has a version in the Daily Star at Campbell reports.

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office is suing the Arizona Board of Regents for not adhering to a constitutional requirement that tuition for residents attending state universities be “nearly as free as possible.” Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed a complaint Friday with the Maricopa Superior Court questioning ABOR’s formula for setting tuition rates, which considers factors he deemed “necessarily incompatible” with the Constitutional goal.

The intent is not to suggest an appropriate rate but rather to question that formula, setting this case apart – at least in Brnovich’s eyes – from a 2007 Arizona Supreme Court ruling that found setting tuition was beyond the court’s power.

Brnovich said ABOR provided the vehicle for the suit when the regents chose to extend in-state tuition to beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which, as was noted in the complaint, is slated to end in six months unless Congress intervenes.

So the first thing to observe here is that the real issue is the Regents’ treatment of DACA, not the tuition itself (no matter what Brnovich says). The second thing is his dismissal of the constitutional responsibility of the legislature to provide, via taxation, for the “proper maintenance of all state educational instutitions”.

Here are the relevant items from the Arizona Constitution.

Article 11, section 6. Admission of students of both sexes to state educational institutions; tuition; common school system
Section 6. The university and all other state educational institutions shall be open to students of both sexes, and the instruction furnished shall be as nearly free as possible. The legislature shall provide for a system of common schools by which a free school shall be established and maintained in every school district for at least six months in each year, which school shall be open to all pupils between the ages of six and twenty-one years.

Article 11, section 10. Source of revenue for maintenance of state educational institutions
Section 10. The revenue for the maintenance of the respective state educational institutions shall be derived from the investment of the proceeds of the sale, and from the rental of such lands as have been set aside by the enabling act approved June 20, 1910, or other legislative enactment of the United States, for the use and benefit of the respective state educational institutions. In addition to such income the legislature shall make such appropriations, to be met by taxation, as shall insure the proper maintenance of all state educational institutions, and shall make such special appropriations as shall provide for their development and improvement.

And what does Brnovich have to say about the failure of the lege to fund education?

Brnovich acknowledged some of that is likely due to lawmakers sharply decreasing the dollars supplied for higher education. In fact, legislative budget analysts have found that since 2008 alone, state aid went from $9,648 per student to $4,098, even before the effects of inflation are considered.

But Brnovich said all that is legally irrelevant.

Legally irrelevant? The thing is education cannot be “free as possible” when the legislature fails to appropriate sufficient funding to make it so. That leaves tuition increases as the alternative.

So in Scriber’s view, the two sections from the Constitution are legally entwined and Brnovich is wrong. But then I am not a lawyer and perhaps all the rest of Brnovich’s case about rate-setting will sway a judge and maybe the state supreme court.

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