Education key topic in Gov. Brewer's state of state speech - East Valley Tribune: Capitol Media Services

Education key topic in Gov. Brewer's state of state speech

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Posted: Monday, January 13, 2014 6:00 pm | Updated: 9:28 am, Tue Jan 14, 2014.

Gov. Jan Brewer asked lawmakers Monday to approve to approve a plan to give more money to schools where students show marked improvement.

The proposal, dubbed Student Success Funding, would link state aid to how well students do on standardized tests. If approved, it would be Arizona's first ever link between cash and performance.

“That means we stop funding the status quo and instead reward innovation and measured outcomes — and fund the results we want,” she said.

Brewer, in what is likely her last State of the State address, also laid out a wish list of proposals she said will make Arizona more economically competitive.

She wants, for example, to exempt manufacturers from having to pay the state sales tax, levied on everyone else, on the cost of electricity. Brewer said Arizona is one of only a few states that extends the tax to such firms.

“That puts our current manufacturers, and the ones we hope to recruit, at a disadvantage,” she said. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which is pushing the move, estimates the levy brings in $5 million to $10 million a year.

Brewer also said she wants lawmakers to adopt a package of other measures — not specified — that she said will attract the kind of firms that have high-paying jobs. She is seeking a more stable source of state funds for the Translational Genomics Research Institute to do research in bioscience.

The governor also told lawmakers she wants the Arizona Board of Regents to adopt a policy that guarantees “stable in-state tuition levels” for the four years it should take a student to get an undergraduate degree.

“Arizona students and families need stability and affordability in their college education,” she said.

But the governor has no actual authority in this area, other than as a member of the board, and she could face a chilly reaction from other regents.

Regents President Eileen Klein said her board has been working toward more predictability and stability, but Klein said that can be done only if the governor and Legislature makes “a commitment to sufficient and stable funding.”

“Just as Arizona suffered from one of the worst recessions in the nation, state budget cuts to Arizona’s public universities were also among the worst in the nation, resulting in a massive cost shift from the state to students and their families,” Klein said in a prepared statement. She said making tuition predictable will require a “strong partnership” with the state — and a dependable source of cash.

Brewer's plan to link state aid to schools to student performance is tied to standardized testing of each of the state's 1.1 million children in public schools. Then each student will be graded for year-over-year improvement.

A student who improves several grade levels could earn his or her school up to an extra $300 a year on top of the estimated $4,115 in basic state aid per pupil. But Brewer staffers said most of the bonuses will be in the range of $10 to $60.

Schools whose students already are doing well also will earn some extra money, though not as much as the schools who can show an actual improvement.

But students whose achievement lags will earn nothing extra for their schools.

One hang up is that the proposal would require lawmakers to come up with an extra $40 million in state aid for schools. That's on top of a Supreme Court order to make an annual inflation adjustment, something that could automatically add another $80 million.

But the governor told lawmakers the investment is justified. She said that by 2018 three out of every five jobs in the state will require training beyond a high school diploma.

“Our students must be better prepared for the challenging and competitive world they will soon enter,” she said. “Our students must be better prepared for the challenging and competitive world they will soon enter.”

In other subjects, Brewer told lawmakers said she wants them to give prosecutors more laws to combat human trafficking that “targets women and children, turning many into sex slaves.” She also vowed to launch an awareness campaign “so Arizonans will know what to look for and how to report it and victims will know how to seek help.”

Brewer also wants lawmakers to put money into the defunct Military Installation Fund which can be used to buy development rights around military bases to protect them from urban encroachment — and possible future closure.

And Brewer, who is on record as believing abortion should be outlawed except to save the life or health of the mother, signaled she would support even more “life-affirming legislation protecting the unborn” even as the U.S. Supreme Court earlier in the day voided a 2012 law she signed banning abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The governor gave no hint Monday of whether she will try to pursue another term in office despite voter-approved constitutional language that would appear to require her to vacate the office at the end of this year. She has promised an announcement next month.

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