Arizona’s new special education formula is raising some concerns

Business News | 11 Apr, 2019 |

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has proposed some significant changes to Arizona education spending as part of his new budget proposal. These, budget proposals are raising a number of concerns, though there are good points, as well. Let’s look at the budget proposal as written by the Governor and the proposals to change it or expand upon it. We’ll also address the reasons why these changes to his budget were advanced in the first place.

Teacher Salaries

One item in the budget Arizona teachers praise is the plan to raise teachers’ salaries. He proposed a 20% raise by 2020. Schools in the next fiscal year would get 165 million dollars to raise teacher salaries by 5%. High achieving schools will receive incentives, as well. This means additional raises will vary by district. The budget proposals will leave the state on the hook for $175 million for teacher raises in 2021.

There are incentives for teachers who work in shortage areas. For example, teachers who agree to work in special education, rural communities and in STEM would receive a thousand-dollar stipend.

The higher pay rates for teachers, especially those with advanced degrees and specialized credentials, will also encourage further education for teachers. Part-time or full-time special education programs like those that Bank Street College online offer, allow more teachers to specialize while keeping their position, which could help quell some of the shortages the state is currently dealing with.

Investments in the Future

Ducey’s budget will devote around a hundred million dollars to higher education. Part of this money is allocated to the three teachers’ academies that are training future teachers; the academies were started in 2017 but weren’t funded at that time. The plan is for these academies to increase the number of teachers in the state. The schools are promising a free college education to those who agree to teach in Arizona. Because they weren’t funded, the more than two hundred students who participated last year had to pay for their own education.

Changes to the Special Education Formula

Arizona’s funding formula for special education hadn’t been changed for forty years. The old funding formula failed to take into account students moving outside of their traditional district boundaries. Changes were also needed because funding for special education students is often inadequate. For example, school districts don’t receive additional funding if they have a larger number or percentage of disabled students or more students with significant disabilities.

A bill to change it was presented but was rejected. That bill would have established new base funding rates and weights for the fiscal year 2019. It would have allocated an additional three million dollars to the Extraordinary Special Education Needs Fund for those that needed even more than the money allocated to them under the new formulas.

Conclusion

The new Ducey budget increases teacher pay and spending on key infrastructure. However, there are areas like special needs funding that are not yet fully met and will need to be addressed before it’s too late.

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