Judge does about-face on order to negotiate school funding

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 10.17.35 AMBy Howard Fischer | Capitol News Services/Arizona Daily Star

A judge on Wednesday issued — and then rescinded — an order that state officials and legislators go to the bargaining table with school districts in a bid to finally end a $1.3 billion lawsuit over funding.

The sudden about-face came after attorneys convinced Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper that her powers to compel negotiations are limited. Instead, Cooper is now telling all sides that their participation in the talks is optional.

But the judge made it clear during a Wednesday afternoon hearing that she hopes for some resolution short of having the issue decided by judges.

“This is an incredible opportunity for you all to really, really serve your clients and serve the public,” she told the lawyers for all the parties. “It is my fervent hope you will maximize the opportunity.”

But the talks could be derailed quickly.

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