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Proposals For Overhauling Arizona School Funding Unveiled

A group convened by Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday released a dozen proposals to revamp Arizona’s K-12 school funding system. Ducey called the ideas a “road map.”

If implemented, the ideas from the Classrooms First Initiative Council would overhaul how the state gives money district and charter schools, a formula created more than 30 years ago.

Right now, the state funds district schools and charter schools differently. Many districts also rely on local property taxes to balance their budget, while charters cannot levy taxes.

“So what we’re generally trying to do is bring that together and figure out what is the number we’re going to give, and those dollars should pretty much follow that child into the system,” said council co-chair Jim Swanson, CEO and president of Kitchell.

He said funding public schools should be the responsibility of the state. In recent years, many districts that have looked to voters to approve overrides and bonds to bolster their budgets.

The group also recommended increasing teacher salaries and reducing how much schools rely on local property taxes.

“We know that simply re-shifting the pie at this point in time is just not enough,” teacher Beth Maloney said. “We know that we need to grow the pie.”

The bottom line?

“There absolutely needs to be more funding coming from the state,” Maloney said.

The proposals are not yet tied to legislation or state funding. Ducey said to stay tuned for next year’s budget.

“There’s still work left for our office and there’s work left for  policy makers and the legislature,” Ducey said.

The council spent 18 months compiling its recommendations. It’s unclear how long it will take to implement them.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Mariana Dale rustles up stories as a senior field correspondent based out of KJZZ’s East Valley Bureau in Tempe. She’s followed a microphone onto cattle ranches, to the Dominican Republic and many places in between. Dale believes in a story’s strength to introduce us to diverse perspectives, inspire curiosity and hold public leaders accountable for their actions. She started at KJZZ on the digital team in 2016 and still spends a lot of time thinking about how to engage with our community online. Dale has learned from stints at Arizona Public Media, The Arizona Daily Star, The Arizona Republic and as an intern at NPR’s Morning Edition in Culver City. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Dale is grateful for the mentoring of the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, the Chips Quinn Scholars program and AIR’s New Voices Scholars. A desert native, she loves spending time outside hiking, tending to her cactus and reading.