Reform supporters argue for modernized K-12 funding

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Advocates of reforms to Arizona’s K-12 school funding system presented their views to state lawmakers at a Monday luncheon.

“I don’t think there’s a better opportunity for the Legislature to take on this, given the state’s historic investments in education and the federal dollars available to schools,” Matthew said. Simon, vice president of government affairs and advocacy for Great Leaders Strong Schools. “This is an opportunity to reform our system to make sure we have a K-12 student funding system that funds students the same way no matter what type of public school they are. they frequent.”

The group and its allies believe that the funding system should be redesigned to fund students more equitably, whether the student attends a public district school or a public charter school, or whether the school is an urban area, suburban or rural. Also, the system should reflect the state’s strong school choice options.

A recent poll conducted by the nationally acclaimed firm Public Opinion Strategies found that nearly 80% of Arizona voters believe that every K-12 student should be funded the same, no matter what. school he attends or his place of residence. Seventy percent of respondents said they would support a new funding formula.

The poll of 500 voters was conducted last month and has a margin of error of 4.38%.

“It’s very promising that voters are seeing something wrong with the current system and are increasingly interested in a true student-centered funding system,” Simon said.

The current K-12 funding formula varies depending on the type of school, the makeup of the local property tax base, the makeup of the students, and whether the jurisdiction’s voters have supported budget obligations and waivers. District schools are funded by a combination of state and local funds, while charter schools do not have access to local funds.

The complexity of the funding formula, say proponents of the reform, does not treat students equally based on where they attend school, but rather is still largely calibrated around systems.

School districts must campaign during bond and void elections to raise property taxes so schools can receive increased funding, but a statewide per-student funding formula would eliminate the need for local bonds and canceled elections.

“Districts with lower land values ​​and less cooperative voters have a much harder time securing bonds and increasing funding for their schools,” Simon said. “A state student funding formula would not only make economic sense for these districts, but we would hope that all districts would do the economic math and realize that this is the best option. We want to offer a downhill track to these neighborhoods to make this choice.

Simon also discussed the formula used to calculate school transportation funding. The current formula does not take into account the major changes in enrollment that some school districts have experienced over the past 20 years.

“You have districts like the Tucson Unified School District, which are down almost 30% in enrollment over the last 20 years, and yet they are still receiving funding for student transportation as if their enrollment is at an all time high. said Simon. “And that money they get doesn’t have to be spent on transportation. The transport form is faulty.

Proponents of reform in 2021 backed legislation passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Doug Ducey to establish a competitive $20 million grant program to enable district and charter schools, governments locals and non-profit groups to modernize student transportation and make it easier for families to get to schools other than their assigned location or to schools that are not near a local bus route. the city. Under the program, districts and charters can also provide direct subsidies to families for transportation needs, whether direct rides, carpools, K-12 carpools, or public transit.

This year’s supporters support legislation that would increase flexibility in the types of vehicles education providers can fit into their fleets.

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