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Arizona schools don’t get extra funding for students living in poverty


PHOENIX — Arizona is one of only eight states that does not give schools additional funding for students living in poverty.

That’s according to EdBuild, a nonprofit that studies the ways schools are funded in the United States.

In some states, extra funding is provided to schools for every student from a low-income household they serve. Other states provide the additional dollars based on a school district’s concentration of low-income students.

“Arizona does neither,” said Zahava Stadler, director of policy at Edbuild. “We know from a lot of research that low-income students require more resources to succeed.

“And when they get those additional resources, it makes a real difference.”

She added it makes a difference in achievement, test scores, graduation rates and long-term life outcomes, such as earnings and employment.

Most states that provide increased funding for students in poverty give schools the flexibility to spend it to meet their needs.

It can be used for anything from additional literacy intervention to smaller class sizes.

“It could be whatever makes sense for that school and their needs,” Stadler said.

She said not providing extra funding for low-income students “is especially harmful in a state like Arizona.”

That’s because there are a lot of small school districts in Arizona with high poverty rates.

“What that means is that if you have a really high-poverty community, without that extra funding, their district is really going to be at a loss,” she said.

Stadler pointed to the Kyrene School District in Phoenix as an example. Only 9% of students in that school district meet the federal poverty level.

In contrast, the Phoenix Elementary School District is a high-need district, with 44% of students meeting the federal poverty level, yet it gets nearly the same amount of state money per student as the Kyrene School District.

“If you think about the differences you would see on the ground in those communities, the differences the kids are experiencing, what the teachers are facing in terms of challenges in those communities and then think about the fact that the state basically hands them the same amount of money per pupil, I think that’s something that deserves a second look,” Stadler said.

In order for Arizona to begin allocations additional dollars for students living in poverty, state lawmakers would need to pass a bill making that change to the state’s school funding formula.

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