Arizona Legislators gave do pass recommendations to bills on student transportation, high-quality teacher training to get teachers certified in high demand fields, non-resident student funding, an apprenticeship program, as well as school districts, tuition and expenditures, when they met earlier today.
Also, House and Senate Republican leadership and Gov. Doug Ducey came to an agreement late last week on a budget proposal, and Legislators will learn more about the details in the proposed budget bills this week.
During the 1 p.m. House Rules Committee, Legislators approved Senate Bill 1328, sponsored by Senate Education Chair Paul Boyer, which would create a high-quality teacher professional development program that supports teachers getting certified to teach in high-need areas like science, technology, engineering, math, and career and technical education and provide scholarships or grants for that high-quality training from a qualifying post-secondary institution.
In addition, Legislators also approved Senate Bill 1361, sponsored by Sen. Boyer as well, which would allow school districts and charter schools to include non-resident students such as foreign exchange students in their student count and obtain state funding for those students.
Arizona Capitol Television Video: House Rules Committee – 6/6/2022
In other business, House Rules granted permission to requests for the late introduction of two measures relating to K-12 school financing provisions and one measure relating to Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, also known as ESAs or vouchers, which are the use of public taxpayer money to pay for students’ private school tuition.
House Rules Attorney Tim Fleming said, “We have no issue with regard to that motion, and we really don’t have much information about what those measures look like.”
“This is the preliminary step where permission could be granted for those to be introduced, dropped in the hopper, then they would come back to Rules again for our comments,” Fleming said.
“So a procedural step,” said House Rules Chair Travis Grantham.
“Late introduction permission will be granted by the Rules committee,” Chair Grantham said.
A roll call vote was called for by Rep. Diego Espinoza, and the motion passed with a vote of five ayes and three nays.
Student school transportation bill passes
In the 1:15 p.m. House Floor Session, Legislators approved House Bill 2124, sponsored by House Education Chair Michelle Udall, that would allow for students to attend a nearby district’s high school if their own school district does not offer instruction in the their grade. It also allows the district providing the instructional services to receive tuition from the school district that does not offer instruction at that grade level. It also allows the district the student lives in to count the student as enrolled for determining student count and state funding for that student.
In addition, Legislators approved in the House Floor Session Senate Bill 1630, sponsored by Sen. Sine Kerr, on student transportation to and from school that would allow school districts and charter schools to use a vehicle designed to carry at least 11 and no more than 15 passengers or a Type A or Type B school bus to carry students to and from school.
Arizona Capitol Television Video: House Floor Session – 6/6/2022
In earlier discussions on the bill, Legislators expressed concerns about the safety of the vehicles other than school buses that could be used to transport students.
As she rose to explain her vote against the bill, Rep. Judy Schwiebert said, “I am concerned because I think that all of us would agree that students’ safety should come first, and unfortunately this bill was drafted by an outside agency that I think had a good intention to provide alternatives for reservation school buses and other rural areas and other districts as well.”
“But what every transportation safety expert says is that the 11- to 15-passenger vans in particular that this bill would allow are much more likely to either roll over or even burst into flame, which is why they are prohibited by the federal government as well as by our state government,” Rep. Schwiebert said.
“Districts can get around that by purchasing second-hand vans, but our children are not safe in those particular vans so we should not be expanding that. There are other options – shorter school buses or other smaller vans like a Dodge Caravan and others that are similar,” Rep. Schwiebert said.
Rep. Kelli Butler said she understands that this bill might be in response to the school bus driver shortage, but she is against the bill.
“I subbed in on the Education Committee when this bill was being heard, and I was absolutely shocked by this bill,” said Rep. Kelli Butler as she explained her vote against the bill.
When you put your child on a school bus, “I think as a parent you’re making the assumption that that is as safe as possible process and that transportation safety has been considered,” Rep. Butler said.
“Getting around a safety prohibition and putting our children potentially at risk is so wrong. I can understand why we would be even contemplating that with this bill,” Rep. Butler said.
In addition, SB 1630 would add members to the student transportation advisory council that include charter schools of varying student enrollments, small schools in counties with a population under 300,000, the state board of charter schools, a private sector school bus or student transportation provider, two public members and a member with expertise managing electric vehicle fleets.
Apprenticeship program approved
During the 1:30 p.m. Senate Floor Session, Legislators approved House Bill 2290, sponsored by House Education Vice Chair John Fillmore and Rep. Joseph Chaplik, that would have the Arizona Department of Education create an apprenticeship program for high students separate from the U.S. Dept. of Labor-approved apprenticeship program.
An employer in the state could participate in the Arizona Student Apprenticeship program by submitting an application to the Arizona Dept. of Education, providing each participant with job training, provide flexible training so students can attend classes, open an interest-bearing account on behalf of each participant employee and deposit a percentage of the employees wages into that account and disburse the entire amount in that account to the participant employee upon the successful completion of the program’s requirements.
An amendment by Sen. Warren Peterson that would repeal the Arizona Student Apprenticeship program on Jan. 1, 2031 and set taxable years 2023 through 2030 as the timeframe that a qualifying employer could use the individual and corporate Apprenticeship Program income tax subtractions was approved by the Senate.
After completing their business, Legislators adjourned until Tuesday, June 7, 2022.