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Highlights of Arizona’s Legislative Session -- Legislation

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

May 23, 2016

The 2016 Arizona Legislative Session ended on May 7th. Of the 1,247 bills introduced, 388 bills were passed by the legislature, and 374 were signed into law by the Governor. Great work was put in by many of our partners to defeat universal vouchers, the cutting of desegregation funding, reallocating First Things First monies to fund K-3 priorities, parental opt-out from the statewide assessment, AzMERIT; and modifying the Arizona Board of Regents appointed member terms from 8 to 4 years. There were also a number of significant bills passed affecting the Birth to 16 continuum as seen below.

Menu of Assessments – Chapter 10, 2016 Laws
Arizona is the first state to allow for the use of a menu of assessments for accountability purposes. The State Board of Education is required to adopt a menu of locally-procured achievement assessments, including the mandatory inclusion of a statewide assessment (currently, AzMERIT), for grades 9-12 from which LEAs may select an assessment to administer beginning in the 2017-18 school year. It allows each LEA offering instruction in grades 3-8 to select from that menu beginning in 2018-19, and includes a number of provisions that must be met by providers before being adopted onto the menu. This is largely seen as a bill addressing considerable pressure to promote local control and also help reduce testing hours overall for Arizona’s students, although it will dilute the ability of the state’s new assessment system to be used for consistent accountability purposes across the state.

The passage of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) could have a significant impact on implementation of this new law, as the rules and regulations have yet to be established, but will be by August 2017. While ESSA allows for the use of a menu of assessment in grades 9-12, it is yet unclear whether it will be allowed for grades 3-8.

Community College Expenditure Limit Expansion – Chapter 58; 2016 Laws

Community colleges are integral to the state’s postsecondary pipeline, and it’s critical that they have the resources necessary to provide a quality education opportunity to students. With state funding now removed from Maricopa and Pima Community Colleges, SB 1322 became the top priority to ensure that other resources are able to be accepted and spent on community college activities. This bill allows for the following activities to not affect community colleges’ expenditure limits: accepting grants or donations, engaging in entrepreneurial and commercial activities, collecting auxiliary fees, and contracting to provide goods and services to another political subdivision or tribal government.

Empowerment Scholarship Accounts – Chapters 112 and ; 2016 Laws

The universal expansion of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (Education Savings Accounts) was defeated; however, there were two smaller expansion bills that passed.
SB 1457 expands ESA eligibility for special-needs students 18-22 years of age and SB 1280 expands ESA benefits to siblings of a current ESA student; students who attended a preschool for children with disabilities; children whose parents are legally blind, deaf or hard of hearing; and children with an Individualized Education Program or Section 504 plans that require instructional materials in a specialized format. SB 1280 also expanded the use of ESA monies to allow for the purchase of uniforms.

KidsCare – Chapter 112; 2016 Laws

Not included in the final budget package, a statutory bridge was built to include the expansion of health insurance to 30,000 low-income children (KidsCare) as part of SB 1457.

Move on When Reading – Awaiting Chapter numbers

Two bills affected the Move on When Reading program that requires students to read at a certain threshold by the 3rd grade. HB 2653 modifies the administration of the K-3 Reading Program to allow “A” and “B” districts and charters to biennially submit K-3 reading plans (instead of the current annual requirement). HB 2190 included a provision to address the delay in this year’s AzMERIT scores by allowing current 3rd graders who scored below the required reading level to be promoted if that student receives intervention or remediation services during the summer or subsequent school year and shows sufficient progress.

School Accountability – Awaiting Chapter numbers

SB 1430 reforms the A-F School Accountability system for schools, charters, and districts to allow for multiple measures. In addition, the bill addressed academic progress on statewide assessments in English Language Arts and Math, academic progress on English Language Learner assessments (AzELLA), and progress towards college and career readiness in grades 9-12.

FosterEd – Awaiting Chapter number

HB 2665 establishes the Foster Youth Education Success Program in the Governor’s Office of Education. In Fiscal Year 2018, there is a $1 million general fund appropriation, with an additional $500,000 in matching funds appropriated upon $500,000 in private and/or philanthropic monies being secured. In addition, HB 2665 requires school districts to give an enrollment preference to children who are in foster care; it is voluntary for charter schools.
Of note, Helios provided $250,000 through the Accio Education Fund for a two-year pilot of FosterEd in Pima County.  The Foster Youth Education Success Program is based on this pilot and will allow the program to be implemented statewide.

Settlement of State Board of Education (SBE) and Superintendent of Public Instruction/ADE Roles and Responsibilities Litigation – Chapter 138; 2016 Laws

HB 2620 was amended to include clarification of the roles of the State Board of Education (SBE) and the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) have and both parties agreed to the language. The SBE has explicit authority over the hiring and supervision of its four employees, while the ADE has the explicit authority to employ and oversee investigators that review educator misconduct. It also conforms the statutory number of SBE members to the Arizona Constitution (no additional members to the current board are added, but two existing positions are now in statute).

Category: Education Issues

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