Lawmakers seek to give more money to districts willing to extend school year - Ahwatukee Foothills News: News

Lawmakers seek to give more money to districts willing to extend school year

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Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013 2:36 pm

State lawmakers voted Tuesday to give more money to at least some schools willing to stay in session longer.

But not all of them.

The House approved legislation which would give schools an 8 percent boost in state aid if they extend their school year to at least 200 days. That is 20 days more than now required in state law.

The 43-14 vote, however, occurred only after Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, agreed to scale back the measure.

Schools already can get a 5 percent bonus. But Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, said that premium has been insufficient to get more than a handful of districts to go along with the 11 percent increase in school days.

His original plan would have boosted that to 8 percent.

But Boyer ran into opposition from Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee that has purview over state spending.

Kavanagh said he feared giving that option to more than 2,000 schools would bankrupt the state.

The version which now goes to the Senate gives that 8 percent option solely to schools that have received a D or an F rating on their latest “report cards’’ from the state Department of Education.

Boyer said that trims the list of eligible schools to just about 250.

He said, though, these are the schools in most need of extra time with students.

Boyer cited the inner-city Balsz Elementary School District in Phoenix, which took advantage of the 5 percent bonus four years ago and extended its school year.

He said before the change just 20 to 30 percent of the district’s students were meeting or exceeding state standards for what is expected of youngsters at each grade.

Now, Boyer said, that figure is in the 60 to 80 percent range.

“It works,” he said.

None of that convinced Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale.

Allen said it is possible that the extra days make a difference, though he remains unconvinced. But he said there’s another side to a longer school year.

“What we’re doing is limiting the exposure of kids to their families,” he said. Allen said that’s the same reason he has opposed things like state funding of full-day kindergarten.

“That’s not the role of government,” he said.

But Rep Lisa Otondo, D-Yuma, said her prior experience as a teacher convinces her the extra time, perhaps mixed with a more flexible schedule, is good for children.

Otondo said she has been in the position where she’s had to work for two months “to teach them everything they’ve forgotten over the summer.”

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