Gov. Doug Ducey’s budget proposal calls for $98 million in results-based funding, but education advocates say the substantial increase from the $39 million allocated in 2017 could be used to more equitably benefit K-12 students throughout the state.
Since Arizona Legislators approved Senate Bill 1530 in 2017, about $39 million a year in results-based funding has gone to nearly 300 public schools whose students scored in the top 10 percent statewide on AzMERIT.
“It’s draining our precious resources by only going to schools and students that are already doing well, and it’s leaving the students who are struggling the most and facing the biggest challenges behind,” said Dana Wolfe Naimark, president and CEO of Children’s Action Alliance in a KTAR News 92.3 FM story.
Instead, Naimark said the Governor and Arizona Legislators should accelerate “the restoration of classroom funding and funding for school facility maintenance and repair.”
The governor’s results-based funding plan which rewards schools that are already doing well “is not equity, and that is not fairness. We need to make sure that all our kids succeed, that all our schools are well-funded,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Charlene Fernandez at a Town Hall to discuss budget priorities hosted by the Arizona Legislature’s House and Senate Democrats on Saturday, April 27th.
That additional $59 million could be used for increased pay for classified employees, or almost a full year of district additional assistance restoration that’s part of the governor’s five-year plan, said Chris Kotterman, director of government relations for Arizona School Boards Association.
“There are ways that it could be put to better use,” Kotterman said.
Infographic by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews
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Proposal expands schools that qualify
For fiscal year 2020, Gov. Ducey’s proposal would use the A-F school accountability system instead of AzMERIT to distribute results-based funding, which factors in additional measures of school performance including academic growth and college readiness in addition to proficiency on the statewide assessment.
Schools that receive an A letter grade qualify for results-based funding under the current formula, but schools with B letter grades that also have 60 percent or higher of students receiving free- and reduced-lunch would be included, which could mean an estimated 951 schools receiving additional money, according to the Governor’s office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting.
That proposal “would hurt most of the state’s schools” by taking $98 million, which should be divided up among all district and charter schools and give it to a select group of schools instead, according to a Tucson Weekly article.
But results-based funding remains a top priority of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Earlier this week, Glenn Hamer, president and chief executive officer said in his Ham(m)er Time email newsletter that “We believe this funding model offers the best opportunity to sustain and expand great schools.”
“Results-based funding has been a key priority of his (Gov. Doug Ducey’s) business supporters for a long time,” Kotterman said. “They believe that it’s a way to encourage excellence, and we disagree.”
Instead of rewarding schools that already have resources to do well, the state should be “investing resources in schools that are underperforming in order to help them replicate the strategies of schools that are performing,” Kotterman said.
Analysis of results-based funding
An analysis of results-based funding in 2017, showed that despite a model that provided nearly twice as much money for schools with the most students from low-income families, most of the $38.63 million went to schools with the fewest, said Dr. Anabel Aportela, director of research for Arizona Association of School Business Officials and the Arizona School Boards Association.
Dr. Aportela’s 2019 analysis indicates that the majority of results-based funding – $20.2 million of the $38.1 million – went to schools where 19 percent or fewer students qualified for free-or reduced lunch.
In addition, schools receiving results-based funding serve fewer students with disabilities and English Language Learners, and tend to be smaller schools that serve a higher percentage of white students, Dr. Aportela’s research indicated.
Slideshow: Results-based funding for Fiscal Year 2019 by Dr. Anabel Aportela
Nearly 70 percent of results-based funding went to Maricopa County schools, 14 percent went to Pima County Schools, 4 percent went to Yuma County schools, 2 percent went to Mohave County Schools, 2 percent each to Yavapai County and Mohave County schools, 1.6 percent to Santa Cruz County schools.
Four counties – Pinal, Coconino, Gila, Graham and Apache – combined received just 2.8 percent of results-based funding, while online schools throughout the state received $0.01 million and schools in three counties – Navajo, La Paz and Greenlee – received nothing.
“We can see in the data that a smaller percentage of the student population of Arizona benefits from most of the money, and most of that student population is in the higher socio-economic end of the spectrum,” Kotterman said. “While it’s good that the current program makes allowances for higher-poverty schools to receive some funding, in reality the majority of the funding still flows to student populations that appear to have other advantages as well.”
Instead of results-base funding, “we’d like to see the experiment flipped on its head and pilot the use of an opportunity weight – or a poverty weight – to provide extra resources to the lowest-income schools in the state to see if we could make some gains where they’re needed,” Kotterman said. “If you’re talking about results, it’s a more effective use of it to target it to lower-income schools first.”