State bill proposes overhaul of Arizona’s K-12 school funding formula

Apr 4, 2022, 4:35 AM

(File photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)...

(File photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

(File photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — A bill Republican lawmakers are pushing through the Arizona Legislature proposes major changes to the state’s K-12 school funding formula.

Senate Bill 1269 was introduced late last month as a “strike-everything” amendment to an unrelated bill. It’s a last-minute procedure state lawmakers use to bypass deadlines and public hearings.

State Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa, said she introduced the bill after holding multiple meetings with stakeholders.

“This is a huge step towards a more equitable school funding system where we pay the same amount for each child,” Udall said during a recent hearing in the House Appropriations Committee, which approved the bill last week along party lines.

State Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Phoenix, voted against the bill, saying she felt the bill was being rushed without input from school leaders. She also said lawmakers only had a week to review the 101-page bill and its fiscal impact analysis.

“These are monumental changes that we are making in a striker at the last minute,” she said.

The bill would get rid of the current results-based funding system that allocates funding to schools based on students’ results in standardized reading and math tests.

It would be replaced with “achievement weights” that would allocate funding to district and charter schools based on letter grades assigned to them by the State Board of Education.

District schools would also no longer get extra money for having experienced teachers, and a pot of money that helps boost teacher pay based on their performance would be eliminated.

Instead, district and charter schools would see about $170 million added to the basic funding formula.

In addition, changes to how district schools are paid for running bus routes would result in $120 million in additional funding being available but cuts for some schools.

Matt Simon, vice president of advocacy and government affairs for the school choice advocacy group Great Leaders, Strong Schools, said the bill would equalize the funding for charter and district schools.

“The time is far past to continue to treat students differently simply because of the educational choices they make,” Simon told the appropriations committee.

Meanwhile, Scott Thompson, assistant superintendent for Mesa Public Schools, said his school district, which is the state’s largest, could not support the bill because “we had very little time to look at it.”

He told the appropriations committee other school district leaders he has spoken to felt the same way.

“A lot of confusion, a lot of misunderstanding, very difficult to deal with this in a ‘striker’ moment,” Thompson said, referring to the strike-everything amendment process. “We’re just asking for some kind of seat at the table at this point.”

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State bill proposes overhaul of Arizona’s K-12 school funding formula