Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Lawmakers’ delays need not become state habit

Citizen Staff Writer
Our Opinion

The Legislature procrastinates every year on writing a budget, generally waiting till the very last moment to send something to the governor for a signature.

Now some legislators want to let school districts join in the delays, alerting teachers to possible layoffs as late as June 15 instead of the current April 15 deadline.

Republican House Speaker Kirk Adams of Mesa and Senate President Bob Burns of Peoria introduced an emergency bill Monday to set the late date by which recently hired teachers must be advised about the possibility their contracts won’t be renewed.

Fortunately, Senate Democrats opposed the measure Thursday, leaving it short of the two-thirds vote it needed to advance and possibly become law by April 15 this year.

Some Republicans cited a need to avoid panic and alleviate anxiety.

Clearly those lawmakers have not faced the prospect of joblessness in this economy. If they had, they would know people need early warnings if there is even a chance they may lose their jobs.

If school districts did use the much later deadline, then teachers would have been hard-pressed to find employment before the school year commences two months later.

If there’s even a scant chance their contracts may not be renewed, then they deserve the earliest warning possible from their district officials. That’s only fair.

Tucson Unified School District will alert its teachers to any potential contract nonrenewals as soon as possible – and probably by April 15, Superintendent Elizabeth Celania-Fagen told the Tucson Citizen Editorial Board in a meeting Tuesday.

The legislation proposed by Adams and Burns may have been well-intentioned. But rather than working to accommodate school districts and enable their late budgets, these leaders should be working on getting their own colleagues to complete the state budget in a timely fashion.

The Legislature convenes in January. There is no reason it can’t have a budget ready by mid-April, giving school districts the information they need to write their budgets and assess what layoffs may be necessary.

Instead, lawmakers delay on the sole task they’re required by law to perform: adopting a balanced budget.

Rather than worry about ways to legislate so that other governmental units follow suit with their own postponements, we suggest Adams, Burns and their colleagues in the statehouse instead vow to address the Arizona budget in a timely fashion from this day hence.

As for the school districts, let’s hope they keep their teachers’ best interests in mind, even if that means sending out bad news. These are tough times for all; procrasination only exacerbates the difficulties.

Legislators need to stop delaying work on annual budgets, not encourage school districts to delay, too.

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