Last-minute Arizona school funding bill moves forward in Legislature

Posted at 7:02 PM, Mar 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-28 23:30:14-04

A last-minute attempt to overhaul school funding in Arizona moved forward in the legislature Monday.

Senate Bill 1269 is a 101-page strike-everything amendment that made its way through the first committee hearing at the legislature.

Critics say SB1269 would make cuts to low income school districts, rural schools and would cut programs that retain experienced teachers.

Charter schools would expect to benefit as it will change the school funding formulas per student based on a letter grade that qualifies for funding.

A Joint Legislative Budget Committee wrote a report on how the funding would work:

Replace Results-Based Funding with Achievement Weights 

The bill would establish new group B weights called "achievement weights" that would allocate funding to districts and charter schools based on their letter grade assigned by the State Board of Education (SBE) pursuant to A.R.S. § 15-241. The weights would be as follows:

  • 0.049, or approximately $225 per pupil, for students attending schools with a letter grade of A and with fewer than 50% of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches (FRPL).
  • 0.091, or approximately $417 per pupil, for each student attending a school meeting either of the following criteria:
    • A letter grade and at least 50%, but less than 80% FRPL-eligibility.
    • B letter grade and at least 70% FRPL-eligibility
  • 0.111, or approximately $509 per pupil, for students attending schools with a letter grade of A

and with 80% or more FRPL-eligibility.”

Along with the funding model, this new overhaul would take away programs that pay experienced teachers more money.

“The bill would eliminate the Teacher Experience Index (TEI), which allows school districts with teachers that have more years of teaching experience than the statewide average receive an increase to their base level,” the report stated.

The first hearing was in a committee Monday morning in the house, but only six speakers were allowed two minutes each.

Joe Thomas, Present of the Arizona Education Association, was one of six given two minutes to speak, “And when they have only [give] 30 minutes to discuss school funding for 1.1 million children, it makes me think they’re not being curious enough as to how that system works, and how they could improve it.”

Thomas said charter schools and large districts wouldn’t be able to be on the same funding model, “what it really looks like is were trying to shift all the districts to a charter school funding model that doesn’t work for our larger districts, they need to have more stability in their funding.”

Arizona Representative Kelli Butler, (D) expressed concerned for how rushed the bill is as she didn’t see the legislation until last Thursday at 4pm. She went on about her concerns with removing the teacher experience index, “This takes away the teacher experience index that rural districts rely upon, not only to pay their teachers but to impact their economy.”

The bill’s author, Representative Michelle Udall, (R) says this bill will allow a more equitable school funding system where kids be paid same amount for each child. “That means those same districts are going to have enough money to take the most experienced teachers again and again and then they take the most experienced teachers from the surrounding districts,” Udall said.