State bill could force low-rated schools in Arizona to close

Mar 24, 2022, 4:45 AM | Updated: 7:58 am

(Pexels Photo)...

(Pexels Photo)

(Pexels Photo)

PHOENIX — A bill in the state Legislature that aims to help public schools in Arizona improve could actually force nearly 200 to close.

House Bill 2808 would establish the Arizona Achievement District. It would use the state’s grading system for schools, which was suspended during the pandemic, to identify struggling schools.

The system grades K-12 public schools using an A through F scale. A total of 193 schools across the state got a D or an F letter grade in 2019, the last time schools were ranked.

Under the bill, those D and F schools would have three years to improve and become C schools. They’d be given several options to do that, including independently improving performance while getting $150 per student.

Another option would be to have a high-performing district school, charter school or out-of-state charter school operator take over while getting an additional $2,000 per student.

If the school doesn’t improve after three years, it may be required to close or consolidate if a nearby high-ranking school has seats available for students.

“The goal is to have only high-achieving schools in the state,” Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa, said during a committee hearing last month. “The goal is to have no more D and F schools in the state, so that every child can attend a school that is high-quality and get the education they deserve.”

Critics worry the bill does not address one of the main reasons why so many schools are considered low-performing.

Beth Lewis, a 3rd grade teacher and director of the advocacy group Save Our Schools Arizona, explained many students in these schools come from low-income families.

“We know that our low-income students need significantly more resources,” Lewis said. “But instead of doing that, this bill is threatening school takeovers by in-state and out-of-state operators with very little to no accountability for millions to hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.”

The bill passed the House and was added as a strike everything amendment to HB 2284 on Monday. It’s now waiting for a vote in the Senate.

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State bill could force low-rated schools in Arizona to close