AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin In this April 26, 2018, file photo, thousands march to the Arizona Capitol for higher teacher pay and public school funding on the first day of a state-wide teachers strike in Phoenix.
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge has struck down a voter-approved tax hike on the state’s wealthiest residents that would have raised millions for Arizona schools.

In 2020, Arizona voters narrowly approved Prop. 208, which was expected to generate roughly $800 million for public schools, as the state has consistently ranked near the bottom in recent years for school funding. Months later, the Arizona Legislature passed a new income tax cut, a move that education advocates said was intended to undercut Prop. 208.

Friday’s ruling from Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah was widely expected after an earlier ruling that said the tax would be unconstitutional if it put schools above a legal spending cap, according to The Associated Press.

RELATED: Arizona Lawmaker Says Voter-Approved Tax to Fund Education Is ‘Mob Rule’

Education advocates who mobilized in 2020 to put Prop. 208 on the ballot were quick to express their disappointment on Friday, while Gov. Doug Ducey called the ruling a win for Arizona taxpayers.

“It’s another step in undoing the damage of Prop 208 and making sure we continue to benefit from having the lowest flat income tax rate in the nation,” Ducey said in a statement.

But Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said that the intent of Arizona voters remained.

“How will we ensure our students have high-quality educators at the front of the classroom? How will we remain competitive when our neighboring states have increased teacher pay?” Hoffman wrote on Twitter.

Save Our Schools Arizona, a grassroots organization of education advocates, said Friday that the decision violates the will of Arizona voters and withholds desperately needed funds from Arizona classrooms and students.

“It is incumbent upon the AZ legislature to ensure that voter-approved $1 billion get to Arizona classrooms as the voters intended,” the group said in a statement. “Furthermore, SOSAZ will not stop working until we have 3 branches of state government that support our public schools— at this point, we have none.”

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