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Lawmaker’s education finance fix would revoke school statutes

A Heber Republican’s crusade to base K-12 finance on student achievement includes a proposal to get rid of the laws that govern public education.

Rep. Chester Crandell on Nov. 18 asked the Joint Legislative Study Committee on Outcome-Based Funding to consider drafting legislation that would allow a pilot program to test his concept of funding schools as their students meet standards, but some members recoiled at his suggestion of exempting the trial schools from Title 15 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, which dictates how public education functions in the state.

“It has huge implications, it’s everything we live and breathe in education,” said Vince Yanez, executive director of the State Board of Education.

Yanez said the public education statutes have good laws that protect children, such as requiring teachers to be fingerprinted for use in criminal background checks and requirements to report child abuse.

“There would be no other law in place that says this is how teachers shall pass a fingerprint check,” Yanez said. “It would be completely absent.”

Yanez said the exemption can place the state at risk of losing federal dollars.

Crandell said local schools can develop their own health and safety standards, and while he’d rather “burn the whole thing” when it comes to Title 15, he is willing to compromise.

Getting rid of the statutes would unleash the potential of schools, he said.

“The state Legislature in its great wisdom feels like they have to be the watchdog and sometimes we regulate to the point of not letting them accomplish what they need to accomplish,” Crandell said.

Under Arizona’s current system, districts derive revenue mostly by average daily enrollment in the first

100 days of a school year.

The pilot program would include up to 10 schools a year and a limited number of grades beginning in 2013. More grades would be added in the ensuing years.

Under the proposal, schools would get per student funding in two lump sums: half up front and the rest when the student advances.

Figuring out the dollar amount and selling it to the Legislature will be the tricky part.

“Certainly we’re going to have a huge discussion on the funding part,” Crandell said.

The committee is scheduled to meet again Dec. 13 and have a draft of the legislation ready.

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