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Gov. Brewer signs bill creating school performance plan

Gov. Jan Brewer on Thursday signed a bill into law setting up a pilot project that simulates tying funding to performance for a handful of school districts and charter schools, but she said in a letter to the Legislature that she wants more than a simulation.

Brewer instead urged the Legislature to take up and pass her proposal tying a small percentage of all school funding to performance.

The bill Brewer signed, sponsored by Sen. Chester Crandell, R-Heber, sets ups a four-year pilot project with five public school districts and five charter schools. It provides simulated base funding of $6,500 per student in grades one through eight and $7,500 for high school students. Half the money would be tied to students’ performance, and an additional $250 awarded for each student that gets a B or better on math and science classes.

The idea is to track how the schools would do under such a plan.

Brewer’s budget proposal released in January envisions moving all schools to performance-based funding under a program to be phased in over five years.

“This is the only real way to see how financial incentives for districts will drive the kind of innovation, accountability and excellence we all want for Arizona classrooms,” Brewer wrote in her signing letter. “It’s not enough to merely measure our schools. We must fund the academic results we want, rather than continuing to feed our current system.”

Brewer wants to add $36 million into a new fund and shift $18 million in other education money to pay for $54 million in performance funding in the coming school year. That money will go just to schools that score well on an accountability scale or show improvements. The maximum districts can get is $1,000 extra per student, $500 for each measurement, and they’re allowed to decide how to spend the money. When fully implemented in five years, performance funding will make up 5 percent of total K-12 school funding.

But schools that don’t make the grade on either measurement could actually see a decrease in funding, because the budget proposal takes $18 million from other funding in the first year and $90 million by fiscal 2018.

The bill that would enact Brewer’s performance funding plan, SB1444, stalled in the Senate and never received a floor vote. Its provisions could be wrapped into the state budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year that is currently being negotiated.

— The performance funding pilot project bill is SB1293

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