Gov. Jan Brewer called Monday for Arizona to make performance part of the formula that allocates school funding.
“Together, let’s stop simply funding the system we have and start funding the student achievement we want,” Brewer said during her State of the State address that opened the 2013 legislative session.
While not offering specifics, Brewer said her plan would reward schools that achieve high marks or see improvements in performance. She said it would augment the traditional attendance-based funding formula to improve school performance while maintaining local control.
Education was a big part of an address that also had Brewer calling for increased funding for Child Protective Services and simplifying the state’s sales tax system for businesses and saying she supports expanding the state’s Medicaid system under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Saying schools must keep pace with the demands of global competition, Brewer said Arizona has taken a big step toward that by adopting Common Core Standards that must be fully implemented by next school year.
A key to that change is accountability, she said.
“If Arizona schools aren’t doing the job, we’ll know about it. And so will the parents,” Brewer said.
The governor said the budget she will send lawmakers will help schools make the new standards work.
“Of course it’s not enough to install a new curriculum, raise standards and hope for the best,” she said. “I’m committed to making schools and teachers make this transition a success.”
Brewer said the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., makes it important for state leaders to take “common-sense steps” while resisting the urge to turn schools into fortresses. She said her budget would expand funding for school resource officers.
“Let’s come together for the safety of our schools, allowing our teachers and children to focus on what’s most important: learning,” she said.
Earlier in the address she reiterated her support for gun rights.
Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, the House minority leader, said afterward that he was “encouraged” by Brewer’s comments on school safety. He released a plan last week that also called for more school resource officers.
However, both Campbell and Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor, D-Phoenix, the Senate minority leader, said curbing gun violence will require increased funding for mental health services.
“Quite frankly, I don’t see having a true conversation about making sure we have school safety and safety in generally without making sure that we touch upon mental health,” Landrum Taylor said.
Pearl Chang Esau, president and CEO of Expect More Arizona, an education advocacy group, agreed with governor that the Common Core Standards will help improve Arizona schools. She said she is confident that Brewer’s budget will provide the necessary financial support.
“We fully expect to see resources … in order to allow a successful transition to the new standards,” she said.