At the February 16, 2016 meeting of the Creighton School District Governing Board, the Governing Board courageously and unanimously voted to support three position statements regarding school funding in Arizona.
These statements focused on current legislation in the Arizona House and Senate regarding cuts to Desegregation Funding, the expansion of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs), and the shift to “Current Year Funding” for public school districts.
“The chronic tinkering with public education funding systems without deeply addressing the funding inadequacies is harmful to the most vulnerable of Arizona’s citizens, our children,” stated Creighton Governing Board President Jeanne Casteen.
President Casteen went on to say, “We’re receiving mixed messages. On the one hand, Arizona’s political leaders are saying that they recognize the inadequacy of school funding and are working to provide additional funds. At the same time, we see these efforts take a step backwards by eliminating Desegregation Funding, redirecting monies from public schools to private schools with ESAs (which are essentially vouchers), and shifting to a funding system where schools won’t know their actual budget capacity until the school year is more than half over.”
The timing for all three of these changes is odd, since the governor’s Classrooms First Council is scheduled to release its plan to simplify and make more equitable the state’s education funding formula in approximately eight months. President Casteen indicated that the rush to make these changes before more meaningful solutions to the challenges of public education funding are addressed, feels like a systematic attempt to dismantle the public school system. The timing is also strange, because it is at odds with the upcoming proposed school funding increase ballot measure.
The first of the three letters adopted by the Creighton Governing Board opposes Senate Bill 1125 and House Bill 2401, which would phase out Desegregation Funding. While Creighton School District does not receive any Desegregation funds, it does affect 19 Arizona Public School Districts who must budget for court orders of desegregation or Office of Civil Rights (OCR) agreements.
With 90 to 100 percent of these funds going directly to the classroom, this phasing out of funding would impact Phoenix Union High School District where most Creighton students will continue their learning. The estimated $53 million in cuts would directly affect educational opportunities for students in the Creighton Community and have a significant negative economic impact.
The second letter opposes Senate Bill 1279 and House Bill 2482 which seek to expand ESAs. While the Creighton Governing Board affirmed support for public school choice, it does not support the redirection of public education funding to private institutions. Further, Governing Board members expressed concern over these funds being provided to private and for-profit institutions without any public accountability.
The third letter requests the delay of “Current Year Funding” slated to go into effect for the 2016-2017 school year. This shift in funding design will negatively affect the majority of public schools in Arizona at a time when they are still attempting to recover from state cuts to education since 2008. The addition of a new state school finance system (AzEDS which is intended to replace the current SAIS system) could further compound this financial impact, as it is still too new to ensure its accuracy.
“With a teacher shortage crisis already upon us and the demoralizing effect of efforts to reduce or redirect already inadequate school funding, I couldn’t be more proud of the unanimous decision by this Governing Board to take a stand on these three critical issues,” stated James Diaz, Creighton Teacher and President of the Creighton Education Association.
Mr. Diaz continued, “It is easy to stand by and let others give away the public education system that is the backbone of our democracy and our economy, but it takes true courage to make a stand for the greater public good.”
The full content of the Creighton Governing Board statements can be found on the Recent Board Statements page of the Creighton School District website at http://ow.ly/YrKW1.
Questions and interest can be directed to Creighton Governing Board President Jeanne Casteen at 602.456.1372 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, please contact Jay Mann at Creighton School District at 602.381.6018 or email@example.com.
About Creighton School District
Established in 1884, Creighton School District No. 14 is a system of nine public schools that serve a diverse population of students in the heart of Phoenix. Frequently recognized for innovations in education, Creighton is also well-regarded for the feeling of family that is evident throughout the District. Families select Creighton schools for their children for the caring teachers and staff as well as the rich learning environment. For more information, visit creightonschools.org. Follow Creighton on Facebook at Facebook.com/CreightonElementarySchoolDistrict.