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Brewer plan would tie school funding to student achievement

Taking a page from higher education, Gov. Jan Brewer announced today she wants to install a system in which public schools would earn some of their funding based on student achievement. 

Brewer didn’t provide any details in her State of the State address except to say her proposal will be the “nation’s first comprehensive performance funding plan” for public and charter schools.  But Jaime Molera, president of the State Board of Education, said the starting point will be the model implemented by the state’s three universities this fiscal year.

The universities’ model bases funding increases on the number of degrees students earn, as well as increases in credit hours and increases in outside funding for research.  That is a fundamental shift from the previous funding model, which was based on student enrollment numbers.

K-12 education has been funded mostly on student enrollment as well.

“There has been a lot of discussion to move away from those antiquated types of structures and move to things that actually make sense,” Molera said.

Molera is on a funding task force with the governor’s Arizona Ready Education Council, which discussed recommendations in November that would provide “achievement” money to schools that earn an A, B, or C in the state’s school grading system.  Schools that move up the scale would get money for growth, according to documents on the council’s website. The smallest growth payments would go to the highest achieving schools while the largest growth payments would go to D and failing schools.

The council task force also recommended starting small, much like the universities did.

“We developed a model on how to take the first few steps,” Molera said.

The Legislature appropriated $5 million in fiscal year 2013 to the universities to begin implementing the idea.

Brewer said her proposal will not scrap attendance-based funding formulas.

“Rather, this will augment that system with an innovative approach to promoting school performance, while maintaining local control,” she said.

Andrew Morrill, executive director of the Arizona Education Association, said the plan is badly thought out.

“It’s more like rearranging insufficient funding,” Morrill said.

Morrill said any performance funding should be on top of current school funding.

Sen. Chester Crandell, a Heber Republican, introduced a measure last year proposing a pilot program to fund schools based on outcomes of individual students.

The measure, HB2180, passed the House and died in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Crandell said he is going to introduce the measure again, but scale back on the amount a school district would get per student based on achievement.

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