As policymakers continue to discuss school funding, schools who receive the least funding from state and local sources serve students with the most needs, according to a recent report.
These Arizona district and charter schools with a high percentage of Latino enrollment serve students with the highest poverty rates, the largest number of English language learners and the lowest achievement levels.
Arizona’s financial commitment to these schools and the students they serve does not match the students’ needs, according to “State Of Latino Arizona 2016: Sparking a community conversation about school funding” by David Garcia, Anabel Aportela, Robert Vagi and Larissa Galas, which was released Oct. 6, 2016.
“Arizona has dramatically cut state funding, and local school districts have had to pick up the slack and try to make up for it via local property taxes,” said Aportela, director of research and student achievement analysis for Arizona Association of School Business Officials and the Arizona School Boards Association.
When school districts propose bond, override or capital override elections, there is no guarantee that voters will approve the measures, and “that’s where you start to find a lot of funding inequities,” Aportela said.
Video by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews: State of Latino Arizona 2016
The report, sponsored by Arizona State University, the Arizona Community Foundation, Arizona Public Service, the Phoenix Industrial Development Authority and the Raul H. Castro Institute at Phoenix College, does not offer recommendations, but its authors say it is a starting point for discussion and a resource for the Arizona Town Hall “Financing Arizona’s Future” on Nov. 13, 2016.
“We’re holding community forums in Latino communities and elsewhere to try to get folks to understand the impact of school finance policy decisions” on their family and their income, said Garcia, associate professor at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.
How it impacts Arizona students
Latinos make up more than 30 percent of Arizona’s population and are the fastest-growing group in the state, so these issues are critical, said Dr. Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University.
Latino youth make up 45.6 percent of all Arizona students enrolled in public schools.
“We must address the funding inequities that result from Arizona’s increasing reliance on local funds, which negatively impacts the low-income communities and school districts that have the highest percentages of Latino enrollment,” Crow said.
Thirty-eight percent of Arizona’s Latino children live in poverty, said Elisa de la Vara, chief community officer for Arizona Community Foundation.
“We know that education is the pivotal factor in ending chronic, generational poverty,” de la Vara said. “Appropriate funding of our public education system should be a top priority, particularly in a state with a high number of poor children.”
Infographic by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews
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The goal in school funding is general and uniform, and state funds are largely equal, Garcia said.
“Local dollars are the most inequitable, because of the disparities in income and in property across our communities,” Garcia said.
When Latino communities approve a bond or override, they tax themselves at relatively higher rates and can’t make up the gap because of their low property wealth, Garcia said.
Only after federal funds are added in is equity reached for schools with high Latino enrollment, Garcia said.
Arizona “likes to fight with the feds a lot, but at least for our Latino communities and our schools, those dollars are very, very important for creating equitable conditions because those dollars are targeted to disadvantaged students,” Garcia said.
But the problem is that “now, we’re relying on the feds to provide equity rather than doing it ourselves,” Aportela said.