Arizona Chamber Foundation looks at the ins and outs of the State Land Trust

As proposals circulate to change distributions to increase K-12 funding, Chamber Foundation provides Trust backgrounder

PHOENIX — Amidst the statewide conversation over how best to fund Arizona’s K-12 education system, the Arizona Chamber Foundation today released a policy brief that looks at the history, assets and beneficiaries of Arizona’s State Land Trust.

As part of the 1910 Congressional Enabling Act allowing Arizona statehood, the state was granted 10.9 million acres of land that are held in trust for 13 beneficiaries. Arizona’s K-12 schools are the largest of the beneficiaries. In March of 2015, the Arizona State Treasurer’s office valued the full trust endowment at $5.1 billion. The majority of these dollars are held in trust for K-12.

“The Foundation, in partnership with our A for Arizona initiative, has invested a lot of effort analyzing how we can craft policies that ensure all of Arizona’s kids have access to outstanding schools. Clearly, funding is a major part of that equation,” Chamber Foundation Executive Director Katie Fischer said. “With proposals circulating that would change the State Land Trust’s distribution formulas, we believe it is important for policymakers to understand the formation of the trust, how it’s managed and who its beneficiaries are.”

Gov. Doug Ducey has proposed a statewide ballot referral to amend the Arizona Constitution to allow more of the funds’ value to be annually distributed to the beneficiaries. Depending on the funds’ growth from land sales, investments, and interest, Gov. Ducey projects schools could receive as much as $300 million or more per year from their fund. The governor expects that the fund will not diminish below its current level and more than likely will modestly grow with a projected average growth rate of 7.2 percent.

“Gov. Ducey is seeking to send to voters a bold proposal that would dramatically boost funding to Arizona’s schools without raising taxes,” Fischer said. “As we seek to improve access to great schools and boost student achievement, it is our hope that this brief will help policymakers better understand the trust’s role in education funding.”

The entire policy brief can be found online at the Foundation’s website.