By Julie Wiessner
The Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA) will be carrying several topics to the state legislature at the request of Holbrook School District officials.
Specific issues for bill introduction in 2014 include advocating for school safety measures to be funded by additional state funding sources.
Another item is to advocate for statutory requirements for student attendance in school. The district is experiencing too many absences and is seeking repercussions for students without an excused absence. District officials are encouraging legislation that would have students with unexcused absences face a penalty such as loss of credit, retention or parent intervention. The measure would require students to attend 90 percent of the school year unless substantiated documentation excludes that student from attending.
Another issue is flexibility in school scheduling to allow school districts to not be penalized for 60-minute classes, as instituted by former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne.
Horne’s mandate requires each high school student to have four 60-minute periods of class daily or the district will be penalized by a loss of funding. The district loses some funding from its Career and Technical Education program when Northern Arizona Institute of Technology (NAVIT) students have to be released early.
The district tries to avoid early releases, but twice a year during parent/teacher conferences, students are released early. The district is not penalized greatly, but finding every possible source of funding is the goal since state funding has been cut every year for the past several years.
The district is seeking flexibility to allow a class period to be 45 minutes to an hour long.
The fourth issue for 2014 is to advocate for Common Core, and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers (PARCC) assessment funding to implement the new Common Core Standards. According to Dr. Robbie Koerperich, the district’s superintendent, “So far, the district has been given $60,000 to implement these programs, but it is going to cost a lot more than that.”
Short-term issues to be addressed over the next three to five years are restoration of full day kindergarten funding, and advocating for the renewal of the building renewal funds for maintenance and upkeep of school facilities.
Long-term issues to be addressed over the next five to 10 years are advocating for local control of financial decision making (as applicable with state and local funding), local control of curricular choices and local control over policymaking.
More issues to be addressed are advocating restoring the Proposition 301 two percent annual growth factor to the entire General Budget Limit (GBL). According to District Business Manager Garry McDowell, “Under Prop. 301, which was approved by the voters in 2000, the Base Support Level (BSL) noted above $3,308.57 was supposed to increase by two percent each year or by an inflation factor, whichever is less.
“For the last several years during the recession, the legislature has chosen to make a small annual increase to only the transportation revenue control limit, not the BSL. Now that the state economy has improved and the state Supreme Court is looking at the legislative failure to follow the wishes of the voters, the legislature is going to go ahead and increase the fiscal year 2014 BSL by 1.8 percent, which is the inflation factor.”
The school district also wants to restore unrestricted capital funding. According to McDowell, “The legislature has also been simply cutting capital funding. The fiscal year 2014 budget that passed out of the senate last week continues these capital cuts. In fact, fiscally conservative senators wanted to go as far as discontinue the use of a capital funding formula.
“Several moderate Republicans along with the Democrats succeeded in keeping the formula with the hope that it will be fully funded in the future as the state economy continues to recover.”
Another long-term issue is to protect Impact Aid and Desegregation funding sources for those schools that qualify for these funding sources. McDowell explained, “The U.S. Office of Civil Rights (OCR) audited our district back in the late 1980s and our district agreed to enhance instructional services to meet the federal laws requiring equal educational opportunity for our language minority students, the Hispanic and Native Americans.
“The OCR budget is used to create smaller class sizes in core subjects and elementary grades. It also provides outreach to Navajo parents in their own language, supports the extensive use of computer assisted classroom instruction and allows for extensive teacher training.
“From time to time the legislature makes an attempt to take away this legal budget authority. However, at the present time we are under no threat of losing this critical budget authority.”
The fifth long term issue is advocating for adequate funding for Arizona school children to ensure they are able to receive a first class education regardless of where they may reside. On this point, McDowell said, “The legislature has made significant cuts to the basic funding formula over the past few years.”
School districts across the state have had their funding cut over several years and these measures will be part of an effort to retain or restore some of that funding.
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By Julie Wiessner