The Arizona Republic’s politics team discusses teachers’ “boat parade,” a protest for pay raises; the upcoming state budget; and what’s up with Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.

Gov. Doug Ducey early this year sought an additional $113.6 million for various K-12 education initiatives in his proposed budget. The Arizona Legislature’s final budget, which passed early Friday morning, includes a lot of what Ducey wanted, plus more in some cases. 

Ducey’s budget sought funding for more than a dozen different programs, on top of a required infusion of $76 million in adjustments for growing student populations and $318 million from Proposition 123, which voters approved last May.

The legislative budget included an additional $167 million for K-12 education, plus additional money for inflation and student growth. The budget will be sent to Ducey on Monday. He’s expected to sign it.


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Here is some of what the final budget includes: 

Teacher pay

Ducey’s proposed budget outlined a permanent 2 percent salary increase for all Arizona teachers, rolled out incrementally over five years, which would have cost $13.8 million next fiscal year. By the end of the five years, the 2 percent raise would have added up to just above $1,000 more a year per teacher, according to Ducey staff. 

The Legislature funded a 1 percent pay increase next year and included wording that it intended to provide an additional 1 percent the following year. It will cost $34 million next year and $68 million the following year.

Full-day kindergarten

Arizona currently funds 2.5 hours a day of kindergarten. Many districts offer full-day programs, but cover the additional hours either with their own money or with voter-approved overrides.

Ducey proposed rolling out additional funds over two years to cover the cost of full-day kindergarten or early-literacy programs at schools in which 90 percent or more of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. He proposed spending $10 million next fiscal year, and $20 million each year after that. 

The legislative budget creates a new early-literacy grant program for schools in which 90 percent or more of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Schools may apply for a three-year grant, which could be used for students in grades K-3 for things like full-day kindergarten, reading-proficiency programs, reading coaches, curriculum or tutoring. 

The legislative budget allocates $8 million for the program next year, and $12 million the following year. 

Some have said they hope it’s the start of a conversation to restore funding statewide for full-day kindergarten. Arizona officials cut funding in 2010, and currently cover 2.5 hours a day.

“This budget confirms Governor Ducey’s commitment to getting the ball rolling on voluntary full-day kindergarten for every child in Arizona,” said Phil Francis, retired chairman and CEO of PetSmart, who has advocated for full-day funding.


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Excelling schools

Ducey proposed an additional $37.6 million for students attending excelling district or charter schools.

Schools with AzMERIT scores in the top 10 percent will get the funding. Schools with more than 60 percent of their students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch will get an additional $400 per student. Schools with fewer low-income students would get an additional $225 per student. 

An analysis by The Arizona Republic of data provided by the nonpartisan Joint Legislative Budget Committee indicates the program would most benefit the state’s richest district and charter schools. 

Overall, it would give $13.5 million to the state’s low-income area district and charter schools and $25 million to middle- and higher-income schools.

Also, 26 percent of the money would go to charter schools as opposed to district schools; charter schools educate 16 percent of Arizona’s public-school students. 

The Legislature funded the full $37.6 million.


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Bonuses at low-income schools

Ducey proposed a $1,000 signing bonus to attract teachers to low-income schools in which more than 60 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The budget plan allocates $6.4 million for this next fiscal year. 

The Legislature did not include this program in its budget. 

STEM teachers

Ducey proposed doubling the current Math, Science and Special Education Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program by adding $250,000.

The program gives college juniors and seniors who are Arizona residents up to $7,000 per school year for up to three years if they agree to teach math, science or special education in an Arizona public district or charter school. According to Ducey staff, the program allocates all of its available money each year.

The additional money would allow more future teachers to participate. The Legislature funded the full amount.

Enrollment assistance

Ducey proposed $20 million in one-time money to help school districts mitigate the impact of a year-over-year enrollment decline greater than 2 percent. 

Ducey and the Legislature two years ago passed legislation to begin paying schools based on current-year attendance instead of prior-year attendance, but the implementation was delayed. The hit to schools is expected to be about $31 million. School administrators have raised their concerns that the change will make long-term budget planning difficult, including contracting with teachers, if changing enrollment lowers their revenue in the current year.

The Legislature did not fund this. 


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School repairs

Ducey proposed $17.2 million in one-time money for the School Facilities Board for school construction and building maintenance. Ducey and the Legislature had previously approved $15 million of the amount, and this would add $2 million to that. 

The funding proposal comes as a lawsuit filed by school districts and education groups alleges the state has illegally underfunded school capital costs for a decade. 

The Legislature funded the $17.2 million request, plus $63 million for new-school construction projects.

Internet access

Ducey proposed connecting rural schools, including those on reservations, to high-speed internet. The budget plan would allocate $5 million in state money to match federal dollars to expand broadband. 

The Legislature funded $3 million.

Career and technical education

Ducey proposed $1 million for Joint Technical Education Districts for completion grants, and an additional $100,000 for the Jobs for Arizona Graduates program. Both programs help at-risk students complete their secondary education and secure jobs. 

The Legislature funded the full amounts for both programs. 


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College student aid

Ducey proposed putting $114,700 toward a program that helps high-school students complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, applications. Several states have implemented similar programs.

Ducey’s staff said this would help Arizona move toward the goal of, by 2030, having 60 percent of Arizona adults with a professional certificate or college degree. 

The Legislature did not fund this program. 

Computer coding

Ducey proposed $200,000 to help train teachers to incorporate more technology in the classroom. 

The Legislature funded the full amount. 

Principal academies

Ducey proposed $250,000 to work with organizations to develop school-leadership training programs. Education groups have said quality principals are vital to developing quality teachers and improving education outcomes. 

The Legislature funded the full amount.


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Early-childhood services

Ducey proposed putting $800,000 toward the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind’s early-childhood services. The funds would assist deaf and blind children starting at birth to age 3 with services that would help them later in school.

The Legislature did not fund this program. 

Academic standards

Ducey proposed allocating $1.1 million to continue funding 10.5 employees at the Arizona Department of Education tasked with reviewing and overhauling the state’s academic standards.

The Legislature did not fund this program. 


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