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Wins for Students at the AZ Legislature

Legislation, School Funding | 05/25/2017

Stacey Morley
Government Affairs Director

We at Stand for Children Arizona have a little more spring in our step this month – and it’s not just because summer is on its way.

Legislative session ended with several wins for Arizona students, including five Stand-supported bills that passed and were signed by Governor Ducey. Two Stand-opposed bills related to eliminating the ability of eligible school districts to levy desegregation funds also failed to pass.

The five Stand-supported bills that will make improvements to public education in the coming months are:

  • Dyslexia Handbook bill (HB2202): Requires the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) 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.
  • School-Based Budgeting bill (HB2385): Requires public schools to allow principals to participate in budgeting decisions. Additionally, the bill directs expenditures to be reported at the school-level in a transparent manner.
  • School District Governing Board bill (HB2416): Prohibits 2 members of the same extended family from serving simultaneous terms on the same 5-member school district governing board, in urban counties.
  • Assessment bill (SB1098): Initially, this bill merely made some technical changes in statute regarding the shift from AIMS to AzMERIT. The bill was amended in the House to address issues surrounding the implementation of a Menu of Assessments for high schools (flexibility given last year allowing high schools to administer assessments other than AzMERIT). The assessments need to be nationally recognized tests measuring college readiness (such as ACT or SAT). ADE and the State Board felt they could not implement the current law, so the necessary changes were included in SB1198.
  • Move On When Reading (SB1131): Makes changes to the existing K-3 reading program and related funding to improve implementation and accountability.

Unfortunately, there was one bill that passed and was signed by the governor that we opposed as written.

  • Empowerment Scholarships bills (SB1431) – Several bills regarding ESA’s were introduced. In the end, one combined bill passed containing provisions from other versions. The combined bills still expand eligibility to all public school students by 2020. The amendment addressed some of our concerns, but there are still significant problems related to lack of academic accountability, access for low-income students, and inequity of funding.

Probably the biggest success of all was in the budget. During session, we worked very hard to increase the amount of funding the governor proposed for Early Literacy to $10 million and change the way it was to be distributed. Although the funding level was reduced to $8 million, because the budget included language drafted by Stand, the funding will reach more schools and impact more struggling readers. Originally, the funding was linked to the cost of providing full-day kindergarten to districts and charter holders with 90% of its students eligible for Free or Reduced Lunch (FRL).

With Stand’s language, the eligibility is at the school-level, and the funding is linked to the cost of the supports or interventions needed at the school for reading interventions in grades K-3.

Other major investments in K-12 include:

  1. Results-Based Funding ($37.6 million) – Per-pupil funding to districts and charters based on academic performance.
  2. Teacher Salary Increase ($34 million) – Salary increase for teachers (1.06% this year), phased in over 2 years.
  3. College Credit by Examination ($5 million) – Funds to provide incentives to schools and teachers whose students receive a passing score on an exam for college credit.
  4. JTED Completion Grants ($1 million) – Supports JTED students who complete at least 50% of their program but have graduated high school.
  5. Broadband Initiative ($2 million) – Fund to expand broadband availability in schools.
  6. Rural Schools ($2.6 million) – Additional funding to rural schools on a per pupil basis.

As the temperatures rise and families flock to the pool for the summer, we’re looking forward to continuing our work making sure these policies are implemented with student outcomes at the forefront. 

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