Arizona public schoolkids have billions more in funding, in part because of Tim Hogan and the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest.EXPAND
Arizona public schoolkids have billions more in funding, in part because of Tim Hogan and the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest.

Tim Hogan Fought for Schools, Environment, Good Government; Now He's Leaving Law Center

Tim Hogan, a longtime legal champion of Arizona's education system and the environment, announced on Tuesday he's quitting as leader of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest.

Hogan has been the executive director of the 42-year-old liberal think-tank and litigation center since 1991. He's known as a tireless fighter of attempts to defund Arizona's education system, foul rivers, tolerate air pollution, and run dirty elections.

In a release to the news media today, Hogan said he's loved working for the center, but "26 years is a long time to do anything, and over the past couple of years I've started to feel like it was time for a change — not just for me but for the center as well."

Before 1991, Hogan had been chief counsel to the Arizona Corporation Commission and an assistant attorney general working on civil rights and fraud cases.

Hogan told the Phoenix New Times on Tuesday that he's not retiring, and will continue working on various projects. He will quit the center by the end of the year but remain available to help the center's lawyers and staff.

The center and Hogan's name often are behind news about lawsuits that aim to help Arizonans in general, such as the lawsuit over school funding that was settled after the successful election of Proposition 123.

In April, the center sued the state again on behalf of Arizona school districts, claiming a $2 billion funding shortfall. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey gave backhanded criticism to Hogan after the center filed that lawsuit, telling KTAR (92.3 FM) that "trial lawyers" would rather file a lawsuit than solve things with help from the Arizona Legislature.

Hogan acknowledged his biggest regret has been the failure to ensure Arizona funds the public school system properly. It's not for lack of trying: The center had planned long ago to make funding one of its main priorities. But the process of attempting fundamental change moves at a glacial pace, with enforcement of a court judgment sometimes taking longer than obtaining a positive judgment in the first place, he said.

"We never quite got to what I think is the core of the problem," Hogan said.

Still, the center's success can't be denied. Hogan said he, the two other lawyers for the center, and the center's staff have been responsible for returning billions of taxpayer dollars to public schools.

He pointed out that the center has sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 20 times in the past 26 years over Arizona's clean-air standards, only losing once.

"Just imagine what it would be like" in Arizona without the center's efforts, Hogan said.

The center has pending lawsuits involving a hospital's handling of autism treatments, and jet noise at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson.

A search committee will help find Hogan's replacement, said the center's chair, Roopali Desai.

Hogan said he expects many people to be interested in the job, adding that the center pays him $112,000 annually.

Andy Tobin, one of five Arizona Corporation Commissioners and a former State House Speaker, had high praise for Hogan even though they sometimes found themselves on opposites sides of a debate.

In spite of his own conservative take on issues, Tobin maintains that Hogan and the law center have had a generally positive impact on Arizona.

“I think it’s important that different viewpoints get represented, whether they’re liberal or not,” he said, calling Hogan a “consummate professional.”

Tobin was first elected to the Legislature in 2006 and was soon considered “education freshman of the year” by school officials because of his work on a scholarship program, he said.

Then the next year, when the Great Recession zapped Arizona’s bank accounts, he said, “I’m cutting the budget – it’s not the place I wanted to be … I was in leadership during hard times. I didn’t like getting sued by Tim Hogan or anyone else, but I respected their positions.”

Tobin said he and Hogan have seen eye-to-eye on several issues since Tobin was elected to the Corporation Commission last year, such as extending help for vulnerable seniors after utility rate hikes.

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