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State Capitol News

Two Lawmakers Have Plan That May Mean 10 Less School Days

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/knau/local-knau-946995.mp3

Phoenix, AZ – Sen. Rich Crandall said the state hasn't fully funded public
education for years. He said there's not much he and Rep. Doris
Goodale can do about that themselves. But he said they can try to
get colleagues to provide some flexibility for schools to deal
with the financial shortfall. One of those involves allowing
schools to meet only 170 days a year. He said that could cut down
on the cost of utilities and transportation. Crandall said that
would not short-change education, as the trade-off would be that
schools have to extend the length of the school day. But Senate
Minority Leader David Schapira foresees problems. One is that
longer school days will lead to shorter attention spans. And then
there are financial considerations, not for schools but for
parents.

(You may now, especially for younger kids, have 10 more days of
the year where the parent has to find a way to have their kid
supervised. So where a parent may rely on the number of days in
the school year for their kid to be in kindergarten or first
grade and they do daycare the rest of the year while they're at
work, they have 10 more days a year they have to pay for
daycare.)

Schapira also said it violates the terms of Proposition 301, a
2000 voter initiative which hiked the state sales tax by six-
tenths of a cent. He said some of the proceeds were specifically
earmarked to extend the state school year from 175 days to 180.
Crandall disagreed.

(Think about it. We already have four-day schools across all of
Arizona. If shaving off 40 days doesn't violate 301, how does
cutting off five to 10? So it's the minutes, the classroom
minutes that are critical here, not the number of days you're in
session.)

The plan includes some other changes designed to help schools
deal with the lack of state cash. One expands how schools can use
the money they now get in donations. Current law limits the
funding to extracurricular activities. This would let the
districts spend anything they get on supplies and other one-time
expenses. It also contains some changes in laws governing
borrowing by schools. Goodale acknowledged that one solution
would be to properly fund schools. But Goodale said it isn't up
to just her or Crandall.

(It takes a lot of convincing. And that's part of the challenge
of changing the culture of thought and where the budget goes.
Because every member on the floor of the House has an idea of
what properly funding means, what my district means to education,
health care, public safety.)

A spokesman for Gov. Jan Brewer said she has concerns about some
of the elements of the proposal but looks forward to working with
the two legislators. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard
Fischer.