February 28, 2017
We are 46 days into the legislative session. The total number of bills introduced this year is 1,055. So far, the Governor received (and signed) 1 bill. Not unsurprising, since it is less than half-way through session. Last week was the deadline for bills to be heard in their chamber of origin – House bills in the House, Senate bills in the Senate. The Legislature is spending long hours on the floor this week in order to move bills into the opposite chamber. Committee hearings will resume next week. This week is also a time for Leadership to compile their Members priorities in preparation for budget negotiations. The Governor’s budget proposal included several recommendations for education.
Although encouraged by the Governor’s commitment to fund education, Stand’s budget priority is to see the amount allocated for Early Literacy increased to $20 million this year. Additionally, we are advocating for the funding to be targeted to low-income schools with high numbers of 3rd graders not reading at grade-level.
Stand continues to advocate for and support policies and legislation that help students, teachers, and parents. We oppose those bills threatening the positive momentum of Arizona students.
Below is a quick rundown of some education-related bills introduced so far this session:
- School District Governing Board bill (HB2416): Prohibits members of the same extended family from serving simultaneous terms on the same 5-member school district governing board. Current law prohibits immediate family from serving together. This would extend the prohibition to extended family, such as grandchildren, nieces, nephews and in-laws.
- Dyslexia handbook bill (HB2202): Requires the Department of Education to develop and maintain a handbook to provide guidance to schools, teachers and parents on recognizing dyslexia in students. Early identification and intervention is instrumental in supporting dyslexic students. Because of how the brain develops, those students who are diagnosed at an older age experience far greater struggles in learning to cope academically.
- Move On When Reading (SB1131): Makes changes to the existing K-3 reading program and related funding to improve implementation and accountability.
- Desegregation funding bill (SB1174): Requires school districts who levy property taxes for desegregation costs to get approval from their voters every 7 years, similar to an override election. Currently, the impacted districts are empowered to levy without a vote, as the funding meets the requirements of a federal court order or consent decree.
- Empowerment Scholarships bills - There are two sets of bills (identical House and Senate versions):
- Expansion bills (HB2394 & SB1431) – Expands Empowerment Scholarship eligibility to all K-12 students by 2020. While Stand supports school choice, we are concerned that the program lacks academic accountability, with no data available to taxpayers and policymakers on the quality of the education students are receiving using taxpayer dollars. Additionally, ESA students receive more state funding per pupil, so any expansion would impact funding available for education. This is especially concerning because districts and charters have not been fully funded under the current formula since the recession. Both bills have passed out of Committees and await floor action.
- Administration bills (HB2465 & SB1281): Bills would require the Department to contract with a private provider to administer the accounts, removing the financial accountability from government oversight. Additionally, it prohibits certain practices the Department uses to oversee spending and limit misuse of the funds.