State budget gives ASU more money, K-12 schools more funds for reading - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

State budget gives ASU more money, K-12 schools more funds for reading

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Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 10:53 am | Updated: 12:43 pm, Fri May 4, 2012.

Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University will get an additional $15.7 million next school year under the budget agreement sent to Gov. Jan Brewer to sign.

Arizona’s public schools for K-12 education are getting a little additional money to address reading in younger students in the same budget plan.

Education in Arizona — after years of cuts — looks to stay fairly even under the plan awaiting Brewer’s signature as of Friday afternoon.

“It’s what we expected, and quite frankly, anything other than the last two years is nice,” said Joel Wirth, co-CFO of the Chandler Unified School District.

New education spending items include:

• $40 million to improve K-3 reading skills.

• $15 million for soft capital expenses (like textbooks).

• $3 million for competitive grants for K-2 schools.

• $15 million for ASU and NAU.

• $6 million for the university medical school.

The legislative budget also eliminates $35 million cut to districts in fiscal year 2012, which was taken to help balance the budget when public education got federal money dubbed Edujobs. With that, and the $15 million capital expense increases, districts will actually see $50 million more in capital money than they had in 2012.

The Arizona Department of Education was set to receive $3.46 billion, which will be mostly used for state aid to Arizona’s public district and charter schools.

Arizona’s universities are set to receive $703.7 million, which includes funds for the Arizona Board of Regents, and the community colleges are set to receive $65.9 million.

ASU and NAU are receiving the new funds next year — $15 million — to address equity issues of per-student funding among the three public universities.

“This additional funding is greatly needed and will help us to continue to provide our students with an excellent education and enable us to serve the community and the state at the high level we have in the past,” ASU President Michael Crow said in a news release.

Last year, ASU received nearly $900 less in per-student state funding than University of Arizona. NAU received nearly $760 less.

To address the differences in funding, the Arizona Board of Regents proposed adding an additional $15.7 million to the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, with additional increases for the following four years until ASU receives $60 million more annually and NAU receives $16.5 million more annually. In addressing these issues in funding, the universities hope to move toward a pay-for-performance funding model where additional funding would be rewarded for reaching certain benchmarks in such categories as graduation and retention rates.

“These are vital dollars that will allow ASU and NAU to address issues created by unfunded enrollment growth through innovative course redesign technologies and capital improvements that will maintain or improve learning outcomes and decrease pre-student costs for large enrollment or high failure classes,” ABOR Chair Rick Meyers said in a news release.

Arizona’s K-12 education budget is $900 million less than it was in fiscal year 2008, but about $28 million more than this current fiscal year.

Some school districts have had to cut millions from their budgets with the fiscal crunch the past few years.

The Gilbert Unified School District has had to cut $21 million in the last three years, said Clyde Dangerfield, assistant superintendent for business services.

“It’s been pretty painful,” Dangerfield said. “This is the first time we’ve received more money than the previous year for three straight years.”

The new budget awaiting approval would mean an additional $3.3 million for the district next year, but $1.3 million must be used on new programs for K-3 reading and $2 million is designated for soft capital purchases, such as desks and textbooks.

The Chandler school district dipped into some contingency funds to help keep budgets balanced, Wirth said, amid cuts from the state the last few years. Plus, the district got some additional funds because it continues to see an increase in enrollment, unlike other East Valley districts.

Mike Cowan, superintendent of the Mesa Unified School District, said the budget from the state is anticipated to be “pretty stable.”

“Any impact (for Mesa) will be enrollment,” he said.

School districts receive funding based on the number of students enrolled. If there are fewer students, there’s the potential for fewer dollars, even with an increase in the larger Arizona education budget.

Cowan said he and the Mesa governing board will discuss the budget next week, including the possibility of giving teachers additional one-time money or adding to the salary schedule next year.

The Mesa board has voted to close or consolidate several schools in the last few years due to declining enrollment (11,000 fewer students in the last eight years) and budget cuts. The district is now eyeing elementary school closure decisions that could be made as soon as this fall.

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