Classrooms First Council Unveils Preliminary Recommendations

Governor Ducey’s Classrooms First Council cleared its first hurdle this week as it revealed its preliminary recommendations for reforming Arizona’s outdated school finance system.

The Council made the recommendations Tuesday after its three subcommittees worked throughout the summer to identify ways to simplify the state’s school finance system and make it more equitable for all students. The subcommittees focused on three areas: an equitable funding structure; rewarding student achievement and outcomes; and creating a student-centered funding system.

Some of the preliminary recommendations include one formula for district and charter students; reorganizing Title 15 so all school finance laws are in proximity to one another; operationalizing school finance laws in State Board of Education rule and/or policy handbooks not in statute; funding the existing Extraordinary Special Needs Fund for special education students; and allowing high-performing school leaders an option for school-based budgeting.

Several of the proposals recommended additional funding, including funding special education aligned to costs outlined in a 2007 impact study. Council Chairman Jim Swanson has emphasized the need for equity, saying the goal of the Council isn’t to create a system of “have nots.”

There are still many questions the council will address before December, when it makes its final recommendations. Those issues include figuring out how to diversify the funding sources for an equitable distribution for Arizona’s students and a discussion on facilities is also still on the table.

The Arizona Charter Schools Association has served as technical advisors to two of the subcommittees and will stay heavily involved in the process in the next few months as the state takes steps toward building a system that will benefit all of Arizona’s students.

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