This most recent legislative session was long and arduous. Now that the smoke has cleared, what are some of the biggest takeaways when it comes to public education? How did our schools, students, and teachers fare?
#1. Schools received funding that was past due.
The Additional Assistance Restoration was passed, which more than doubles the restoration amount expected in FY20, increasing it from $67,773,700 to $135,549,920. This funding was critical due to the fact that we had raised the bar by setting new standards and adopting new assessments, yet hadn’t provided schools with the funding they needed to execute these measures and tasks effectively. Far too many of our schools have been scraping by with far too little. For some context, this funding was suspended during the financial recession but hadn’t yet been restored, despite the economy rebounding.
#2. School safety funding was expanded by $20 million -- but it isn’t set in stone.
Unfortunately, school safety is top of mind due to recent devastating events. Through this new School Safety Program, funding will increase from $11,946,900 to $31,946,900. It will also expand eligible expenses and establish separate grant requirements for placing school counselors and social workers. It’s important to note that this funding is not part of the base formula, so if another recession occurs, the money will disappear. It is not guaranteed, rain or shine. We hope this funding eventually becomes part of the formula, because even when the economy is tanking, school safety should be one of our top priorities.
#3. Students with Dyslexia will receive additional support.
The ADE Dyslexia Screening Plan requires ADE to designate a dyslexia specialist to provide support and resources for schools and must be developed by July 1, 2020. It ensures that every student in K-1 is screened for dyslexia within 45 days after starting the school year, provides guidance for notifying parents of the findings, and ensures that screenings are rooted in sound research. Schools will work with an ADE dyslexia specialist and other experts, including Arizona representatives of an international dyslexia organization. At least one K-3 teacher in each school must receive dyslexia-related training by July 1st, 2021, and, beginning July 1, 2021, reading instruction requirements for applicants for K-8 teaching certificates must meet the dyslexia training requirements. It will also require the establishment of a Study Committee on Dyslexia Screening, Intervention and Funding, which must report its findings and recommendations by December 1, 2019.
At Stand, we are supportive of these efforts, which will hopefully make our classrooms more accessible for our students with dyslexia, but we do hope that the deadline is realistic and attainable.
#4. There is still more work to be done. Although the adjustments that were made to the formula do benefit our schools, teachers, and students, it is not enough. There was no increase in changes to the formula.
Our funding system remains outdated.
Our schools are still underfunded.
Our teachers are still underpaid.
We still need a dedicated source of revenue, and ultimately, to expand our base. We still need every single one of you alongside us in the trenches, fighting for the educational reforms that our schools so desperately need.