A new court ruling says the state Education Department can't make Arizona charter schools pay back nearly $6 million over payments that they received due a mistake by the department.

The ruling by Judge Dean Fink of Maricopa County Superior Court blocks the department from recouping special funding provided to the schools for teacher-performance pay and other classroom costs.

The state miscalculated that funding provided under a voter-approved sales tax, and the Arizona Charter School Association sued when the state moved to reclaim the overpayments.

The Arizona Republic reported that state Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal couldn't immediately comment on the ruling and on whether the department will appeal.