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Arizona's Fiscal Year 2018 Budget

Author: Janice Palmer, Vice President and Director of Policy, Helios Education Foundation

Helios Education Foundation champions establishment of appropriate, equitable, and sustainable funding throughout the Birth-16 continuum. With Arizona just now reaching pre-recession revenue projections, the state’s K-12 and higher education systems have experienced nearly a decade of cuts and insufficient funding. The passage of Proposition 123 was the first step to change that trajectory with many more steps needed. 

As a result, throughout the 2017 legislative session, it was important to engage with the Governor’s Office and legislators to ensure education funding, across the continuum, was the top budget priority. What we see in the enacted Fiscal Year 2018 Budget is an overall solid stride forward in taking that next step to continue to prioritize education – from early education through postsecondary.

Consistent with the commitment made with Proposition 123, K-12 inflation was fully funded across the entire formula, along with a number of additional investments. The two largest new investments (non-capital) include a two percent teacher pay raise over two years ($68 million) and $37.6 million for results-based funding. In Fiscal Year 2018, results-based funding will provide additional funding to those schools in the top 10% of AzMERIT scores statewide with additional resources (differentiated by whether the school has more or less than 60% of students on Free and Reduced Lunch) and will transition in Fiscal Year 2019 to schools with an “A” rating based upon the newly adopted A-F School Accountability System.

Specifically, there were four investments Helios Education Foundation was focused on supporting that were included in the Governor’s proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget, three of which were successful and included in the final budget:

  • $250,000 general fund appropriation that must be matched by private, philanthropic funds to the Governor’s Office of Education for the Great Schools; Great Leaders principal leadership academy. This builds upon Helios Education Foundation’s current Great Schools; Great Leaders partnership with the Governor’s Office, Center for the Future of Arizona, and the Burton Family Foundation. This is a great example of our desire to create strong public/private partnerships between state government and philanthropy to leverage systemic change.
  • $27 million general fund appropriation, with funding committed through Fiscal Year 2043 that will allow the universities to leverage up to $1 billion in infrastructure and research and development needs. $15 million in one-time monies were also appropriated to the state’s three universities (although $2 million of this was earmarked for the Arizona State University and University of Arizona Freedom Schools). Last, to assist with Arizona’s current K-12 teacher shortage, each of the three public universities was directed to create an Arizona Teacher Academy to incentivize Arizona college students to teach in Arizona public schools, by receiving a tuition waiver for each year taught.
  • $20 million over two years ($8 million in Fiscal Year 2018 and $12 million in Fiscal Year 2019) for early literacy efforts that will allow schools that have 90% or more students on free or reduced lunch (FRL) to use those resources for full-day kindergarten or other early literacy investments.

In addition, there were two items that began as legislation that Helios Education Foundation supported that were included in the final budget:

  • Rep. Heather Carter’s HB 2210 (R-15) appropriates $235,000 to the Commission on Postsecondary Education to provide a one-year pilot program for districts and charters to apply to provide the ACT to their 11th graders. This is a great step forward, building off Helios’ College Knowing & Going initiative towards hopefully evolving this into a statewide initiative in the future. Currently, College Knowing & Going is in 83 schools across Arizona, serving 40% of all Arizona’s juniors with not only taking the ACT exam but also student support services such as assistance with the college application process and completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms. Unfortunately, our efforts to support the Governor’s proposed $114,700 appropriation to the Commission on Postsecondary Education to expand the FAFSA work of College Knowing & Going to more schools and students weren’t successful.
  • Rep. Diego Espinoza’s HB 2184 (D-19) appropriates $100,000 for the Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) program that helps to prevent those students at-risk of dropping out of high school with the academic, personal, leadership, and vocation skills needed to be successful after graduation. The program will be administered by the Arizona Department of Education.

In order to create opportunities for individuals in Arizona and Florida to succeed in postsecondary education, Helios Education Foundation knows that it will only happen through partnership and collaboration. We see this in the investment work that we, and our partners, do every day within our communities, as well as the partnerships we create with our elected leaders. The Fiscal Year 2018 budget demonstrates that when education is prioritized as an investment, not an expense, we can fulfill the beliefs that every student, regardless of zip code, deserves a high-quality education and, through that, lives are changed and communities strengthened. There is much more that must be done to establish appropriate, equitable, and sustainable funding in Arizona; however, the steps taken in the past year with the passage of Proposition 123 and the enacted budget, are heading in the right direction.

Click here to read more about Helios' public policy work in Arizona. 

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