Education funding in Arizona is a hot topic and there are many opinions about how much money is enough, how to spend the money or where to get additional money. Fortunately, there is one thing most people have come to agree on – Arizona’s education system is underfunded. There are difficult but critical conversations taking place about how Arizona’s schools are currently funded, and possible reforms to the existing funding formula. (Read more here and here.)
Expect More Arizona and our partners are concerned about ensuring every child’s education is funded from the early years through career to support high expectations and achieve excellence. According to a recent informal survey, a majority of our partners believe funding should be the state’s number one priority as it relates to improving education.
Further, in the course of our work throughout the state, we hear from individuals on an almost daily basis about how lack of sufficient resources impacts their local schools, communities, and their own children.
While student population growth has increased and more demands have been placed on teachers and students, funding for education has not kept pace. Arizona is one of only four states where per-pupil funding has fallen by more than 15% since fiscal year 2008.
We believe school funding – both new and existing – can be used to improve outcomes and close the achievement gap for all Arizona students. With sufficient resources and a focus on excellence we can help all students read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade, attract and retain great teachers in Arizona, ensure more kids graduate prepared for college and career and much more.
We must all work together to find a sustainable solution to give every Arizona student a world-class education.
Expect More Arizona and our partners agree that in order to ensure equity and excellence so that all students, regardless of their background, income or zip code receive a world-class education, we must support the following priorities:
- School funding should be increased to a sufficient amount per pupil and include extra funding (weights) that give schools resources to meet student needs (especially for low-income, special education/gifted, English Language Learners, and different grade levels).
- Funding should help schools retain, attract and support great teachers and principals in every Arizona school. Arizona should raise starting teacher salary, support new teachers as they enter into the profession, and build a strong pipeline of future school leaders.
- Funding should be used to support schools in closing the achievement gap. Local education agencies (LEAs) should have funding to implement effective strategies to ensure all student succeed. Examples include: longer school year, increased access to quality early education opportunities, programs to help students read by the 3rd grade, and pathways to postsecondary education (including Career and Technical Education).
- Any opportunity to reward schools for the good job they are doing should recognize both student achievement and growth. Schools serving high needs populations shouldn’t be at a disadvantage.
While making smart decisions about how to spend existing dollars is part of the equation, sufficiently funding Arizona’s K-12 education system will also require new dollars. All options should be carefully considered, including settling the inflation funding lawsuit, adding revenue from such things as the existing budget surplus or the State Land Trust, and the renewal and updating of Prop 301, which expires in 2021. Any new funding for K-12 education should not be taken from any other part of the education continuum, early education through postsecondary.
We need your continued support and involvement to ensure our schools are focused on excellence for every child and have sufficient resources to help all children succeed. If you haven’t already done so, sign up to receive Expect More Arizona’s advocacy alerts. We’ll send you information about specific ways you can help before and during the legislative session, or any other special sessions that may be called.