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Proposed school funding change flunks test

A House panel overwhelmingly rejected changing to how student counts are determined for public school funding, saying daily attendance averages wouldn’t properly reflect how many students are enrolled in school.

Under current law, schools receive funding based on their “average daily membership,” which is an average of total school enrollment through the first 100 days of a school year.

Rep. Carl Seel, a Phoenix Republican, sought to change that to the average daily attendance at each school for the first 180 days; state law requires at least 180 school days each year.

But Tempe Democrat David Schapira said it doesn’t cost any less to run a school if some students are absent. “Every fixed cost of the school is set by the enrollment on the first day,” he said. “The costs don’t change.”

Seel said that while there are fixed costs to running a school, it is necessary for children to be there, and this would help encourage that.

“I think the cost to society is much higher if they’re absent,” Seel said.

Basing school funding on attendance rather than enrollment could also present a public health concern, said Rep. Eric Meyer, a Paradise Valley Democrat and member of the Scottsdale Unified School District governing board.

“What you’re suggesting is that, when kids get sick, they come to school,” he said.

And such a funding model doesn’t take into account pandemics, like the swine flu outbreak that has kept thousands of Arizona students out of school during this school year.

“It would make planning virtually impossible,” said Rae Waters, a Phoenix Democrat. “To me, it just sort of feels like a punch in the gut for anyone who supports public schools.”

The House Education Committee voted down H2200 by a 1-9 vote at a Feb. 8 hearing.

One comment

  1. I agree with Mr. Meyer. If daily attendance and funding are directly linked, I believe that sick students will make others sick and absences will rise, which is counterproductive. Personally, I see over 800 students a week as an elementary music teacher. I have to plan for ALL of them and be ready for ALL of them, whether they attend or not. Cutting funding makes no sense. Seems kind of like discrimination . . . “You don’t get more money because your kids are too sick!” That doesn’t mean taht we still don’t have to teach them the same thing when they return . . .

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