Arizona K-12 school funding overhaul clears House committee
March 29, 2022
Legislation that would significantly change the way Arizona’s public k-12 schools are funded passed a House committee yesterday with limited time for debate or consideration. As such, there are many questions regarding the 100-page legislation. To get some answers, we spoke to Chuck Essigs, director of governmental affairs for the Arizona Association of School Board Officials.
The move was quickly met with opposition from school districts across the state.
“School districts don’t like the way they’re doing it, rushing it through in a very short period of time, and they don’t like what they’re doing.”
121 schools districts, out of 266 in the state, would face funding cuts as a result of the bill.
“Most every charter gains money, and about 121 of the 220 school districts, not counting vocational districts, lose money over this. Some lose a little, some lose a lot, and the major losers are those districts in rural Arizona”
Proponents of the bill say that it will level the playing field, moving money from districts that receive disproportionately large amounts of money per student under the current formula to areas that receive less. According to Essigs, that means “the formula is working.”
“When the new formula was put in place in 1980, there was a provision put in there to give more money to small rural schools because it costs more,” Essigs said. ” If they’re complaining that some of these small rural schools have too much money, and I don’t believe they do, that’s what the formula was designed to do. Because of economies of scale, it costs more in a small rural district to get supplies to the schools but also the staffing, where you can’t put 35 students in every classroom in every school because you don’t have enough 1st-graders or 2nd-graders to do that in some schools. ”
One of the most significant changes from the old formula is the removal of the Experienced Teacher Index, a system in which schools would receive extra funding for having teachers who stay at a school for longer than average.
“They say that it’s not fair, that it encourages districts that have more money that can afford to pay their teachers more to stay there,” Essigs said. “What’s interesting is that those who benefit most from the Experienced Teacher Index are districts in rural areas, and they don’t have neighboring communities that are competing for their teachers. Teachers move to those areas and get connected to the community and get connected to the school district. ”
The measure was passed as what is known as a “strike-everything amendment,” meaning an amendment that completely changes the entire text of a law, to SB1269, a bill that had already passed in the state senate. Because of this, it requires only a single vote of the state senate to proceed to the Governor’s desk.