New bill would give schools certain funds based on performance

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By Chase Kamp

Copper Area News

A bill in the state senate that would award education funding based on school performance has some local educators concerned that struggling schools will not get the dollars they need to turn things around.

SB1333, which houses the model championed by Governor Jan Brewer in her January budget proposal, would phase in $56 million in performance funding for K-12 education over the next five years. According to her proposed education outlook, the model aims to reward schools that maintain or improve academic achievement.

Of that money, $38 million would be new funding and $18 million would be existing dollars reallocated from districts and charter schools.

The allocation of funding to districts and charter schools would be determined by achievement and improvement, both set by the annual A through F letter grades they already receive from the state Department of Education.

Achievement funding would go to schools and districts earning a grade of C or higher. Only districts and schools that jump a letter grade from the previous year would receive improvement funding.

Districts and schools could only earn as much as $500 per student for achievement and $500 for improvement each year. The formula would be staggered in the first year, awarding only as much as about $180 per student.

Districts and schools that do not earn achievement or improvement funding would still contribute their per-student portion of the $18 million in reallocation.

Some local education leaders are waiting to see how the bill shapes up in the legislature before remarking on the changes. Others are already getting a first impression of the direction of the proposed model.

Hayden-Winkelman Superintendent Jeff Gregorich said he supports the concept of trying to get schools more money and encourage them to improve. He also likes that there is about two new dollars for every one reallocated dollar.

However, he sees a disadvantage for those schools not located in affluent areas.

“It’s going to favor higher-performing districts, and most district performance is based on demographics,” he said. “It’s not going to favor the lower-performing districts, who you could argue need the money more.”

Then again, he says, all districts in Arizona have been underfunded in the last few years as state funding suffered through cuts.

“Money isn’t everything,” Gregorich said. “But class sizes are a function of money, and more teachers equals smaller class sizes. I don’t know that money solves every problem, but if you don’t have it, it certainly creates problems.”

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