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Education and Business Join Forces to Revamp How AZ Pays for Schools

April 27, 2009

Phoenix, AZ – Arizona's school finance system is fragmented and confusing, which has a statewide coalition of business and education interests hoping to come up with a comprehensible and effective alternative to the present bewildering patchwork of sales, income, and property taxes, which are collected both statewide and by local districts.

Arizona Business and Education Coalition president Dave Howell says he'd like to see schools have more flexibility in how they spend money, but still be held accountable for achieving academic standards.

"There's a trade-off, in our view, with the flexibility. We'll give you freedom to experiment or to innovate, but you have the responsibility to be accountable for the results."

Howell says the current school funding formula was devised 30 years ago.

"Things have changed. We're a much bigger state now. Technology has changed and that has changed the delivery of education in some dramatic ways. Many of us believe the finance system needs to be updated significantly too."

Arizona School Boards Association president Panfilo Contreras says schools are neither concerned about accountability nor afraid of it.

"It sure would be nice to have something that's streamlined, something that's easier to work with and something that gives flexibility to the local community to do what they think they need to do for their kids."

Contreras says the final product should be fair to both education and business, but he believes overall school funding needs to be increased.

"Everybody talks about how they have to split the pie. I basically don't think that the pie is big enough. How you come around to making that pie bigger may be a result of this whole process."

The Business and Education Coalition hopes to have a proposal completed by mid-summer. After that, a series of statewide public meetings is planned.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ