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Gov. Brewer delivers State of State address to Yuma
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer traveled to Yuma Thursday to deliver her State of the State address to a packed crowd of dignitaries and community members at Arizona Western College.
Brewer shared with those present her optimism for the upward direction of Arizona's economy and called for increased competition in the areas of jobs and education.
“We have just celebrated all of the achievements of Arizona's first 100 years, and we were reminded of Arizona's five C's – copper, cattle, cotton, citrus and climate,” she said.
“I am here to tell you that our second century will hinge on another C – competition. Today, Arizona must compete for the most desirable jobs for our citizens, the finest teachers in our schools, the most talented students and faculty in our universities.”
She stressed to those in attendance that the key to Arizona's competitiveness is its schools.
To allow schools around the state to keep up with global competition, Brewer shared that new standards will increase accountability for both schools and teachers.
“Everyone knows that global competition for jobs has changed; our schools must keep pace. Our new Common Core standards are benchmarked to the top education measures in the world,” she said.
Brewer commented that with her new comprehensive performance funding plan, schools will be rewarded with funding based on their achievement. She noted that this performance plan will not wipe out the existing attendance based funding formulas.
Yuma County Superintendent of Schools Tom Tyree said that while he is still delving into the details of the performance plan, it will ultimately reward both campus performance and growth.
As districts prepare to take the new online test in 2015 called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC exam, Tyree said that it ultimately raise what is expected of students, as the AIMS assessment is geared at a 10th-grade level. He noted that the PARCC exam will be more of an end of course assessment rather than a high-stakes test.
Results of the exam will drive funding and A-F letter grades that schools will receive from the state.
Tyree said that he is hopeful that the competition and desire to improve will continue to increase learning, excellence and performance up in schools.
He added that to implement the Common Core standards, which is what the PARCC exam is based upon, the legislature must see education as an investment so schools can put additional resources behind the implementation.
With Brewer proposing to add $109.9 million for both K-12 and higher education in her budget, $40 million of that is one-time funding to help prepare teachers for the new Common Core standards, to be fully implemented in 2014. That includes not only training the teachers to the new standards but also instructional materials as well as new technology for the classroom. The dollars will be awarded on a per-pupil basis.
Superintendent of the Yuma Elementary School District Darwin Stiffler said that he appreciates Brewer's efforts to increase school funding and the fact that she told the legislators in her speech, “Whatever your point of view, we should all agree that it's time we start funding the academic results we want to see.”
Stiffler said that he feels that her position is a pragmatic one held by a majority of Arizonans.
Superintendent of the Crane Elementary School District Bob Klee agreed with Stiffler and said that he is grateful for the funding that Brewer is providing with her limited resources.
With Arizona currently ranked near the bottom in the country in per pupil funding for education, he said that the proposed funding will help, but it will not be enough as it brings them back to about 2006-2007 funding numbers.
“The Governor is trying, it's obvious with some of the things that she's trying to do, but it just falls far short of our needs, especially given the fact that over the last four years funding has been cut for Arizona by over 22 percent.”
He noted that he doesn't have an issue with performance pay as, on the surface, he feels that it is a sensible plan. Now, he said, they are working to sort out the details of the plan.
The proposal would eventually allow for schools to earn up to $500 more per student over a five year period based on achievement, Klee said. Based on Crane's numbers last year as a “B” school, he said, they would have received up to about $350 per student through the formula.
Additionally, they would receive about $38 more per student as part of the $40 million set aside for implementing the Common Core standards.
“It helps,” he said. “But based on our calculations and some calculations that I've worked out with some other superintendents, the cost per student over the next three to four years to fully implement the Common Core, training, equipment computers for testing, is closer $800 per student. $38 helps, it's better than nothing, but it's nowhere close to what's going to cost to do this.”
He said that the reason for the increase is the amount of technology that will be needed for schools to take the online PARCC test and the expectation that campuses will have one computer for every five students. Klee said that they are estimating that it would cost their district somewhere in the $2 million range to get to that point.
Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services contributed to this report.
Visit www.yumasun.com/news/schools-84666-improvement-plan.html for more information about how school aid will be tied to performance.
Visit www.yumasun.com/articles/million-84670-state-schools.html for more information about Gov. Jan Brewer's proposed budget.