A March 2015 Arizona policy report detailed the continuing delay by the Arizona State Legislature to comply with a 2013 Arizona Supreme Court Ruling (Arizona failed to adjust school aid for inflation). Last October, parties in a related lawsuit reached a settlement that will mean $3.5 million restored to school districts (over the next ten years, without raising taxes) if ballot measure Proposition 123 passes in a special election on May 17, 2016. In what many are describing as a “robbing Peter to pay Paul” imperfect compromise, state land trust funding of education will increase from 2.5 percent to 10 percent over the next five years, decreasing to 5 percent thereafter. If the measure passes, Arizona, which ranks near the bottom (above only Utah and Idaho) in per-pupil funding (2013 US Census Bureau data), will allocate an additional $300 per student. Last week Dr. Tim Ogle, Executive Director of the Arizona School Boards Association, endorsed the ballot measure in an Arizona Republic op-ed. As imperfect as Prop 123 might be –many in leadership stress it as a “first step” – this ballot measure is receiving bipartisan and public/private support. Arizona Education Association (AEA) President Andrew Morrill warns that Arizona still needs to focus on restoring “massive cuts to schools made during the recession…”
AEA reports three major current threats to education funding:
1) Current-Year Funding, a new law that, ironically and essentially, defunds Prop 123, when it funds schools according to real-time rather than previous-year enrollment. Lisa Irish’s AZEdNews article breaks down and explains this potentially destructive and disruptive measure.
2) Elimination of court-ordered Desegregation Funding to 19 school districts – HB2401 (retained on the House calendar and can always re-emerge) and SB1125 (ready for Senate floor and will advance, dependent upon HB2401) – will, coupled with Current-Year-Funding, effectively “lose more than Prop 123 would provide” (arizonaea.org)
3) Voucher Expansion (diverting funds from public to private schools), also referred to as Empowerment Scholarship Accounts and Educational Savings Accounts, would allocate a portion of a student’s education funds to that student’s parents for application to private school costs. While SB1279 passed in the Senate and was assigned to the House Education Committee, it is likely dead. HB2482, on the other hand, has been retained on the calendar and can re-emerge. A recent Arizona Republic article explains the history of vouchers and what expansion of this controversial program would mean.
Also of interest:
HB2088, which prohibits public schools from administering surveys (including national surveys like Criminal Justice Commission and Centers for Disease Control) to students without written informed consent from parents;
SB1197, which requires elementary school instruction in cursive writing with demonstrated competency by the end of fifth grade;
and HB2544, signed into law by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on Friday, March 11, 2016, which allows high-achieving school districts to choose from a “menu” of standardized tests (like ACT and SAT) in addition to the state’s current test, the American Institutes for Research exam, AzMerit.