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Performance-Funding Plan from Arizona Gov. Brewer Picks Up Steam

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's proposed performance-funding model for schools is gaining momentum in the state legislature, as two out of three key state Senate committees required to weigh in have approved the bill.

Performance funding could become an increasingly attractive option for governors, as Richard Laine told me in an article previewing the 2013 state legislative sessions. Whether or not you think K-12 budgets in states will largely remain flat or grow significantly, governors are increasingly looking for "results" in terms of statistical numbers, and ways to reward schools that produce those results.

As I mentioned in my print story this week on K-12 finance in Ohio and Minnesota, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence in his biennial budget proposed that the 1 percent increase in fiscal 2015 state aid be "performance-based" using graduation rates, 3rd-grade literacy, and other factors. It's also cropped up as a possibility in Michigan.

The mechanics of the proposed performance-funding model in Arizona are complicated, but they can be boiled down to a few essential parts, beginning in fiscal year 2014. School districts and individual charter schools can receive performance funding either through a total "achievement score" or through an "improvement score" that measures student growth. These separate scores are each based on a 200-point scale.

• First, for performance funding based on achievement, subtract 100 from a school's achievement score, then multiply the result by $5.43. Set that result aside.

• Now, take the average daily attendance of the district or charter in question. Multiply that number by either $500, or the number that resulted from the calculation I told you about in the previous paragraph, whichever is smaller. The result is your performance funding based on achievement.

• Next, for performance funding based on improvement ... I'll resist the temptation to turn this blog post into a crowded chalk board from math class. Suffice to say that once again, you're multiplying the average daily attendance of a district or charter by either $500, or a number that results from a few operations that emphasize the difference between the achievement score in the previous year and the top achievement score from the previous five years, whichever is smaller. If there's a decline in performance, multiplication by zero comes into play, and therefore in the end the district or charter won't get any performance funding based on improvement.

There are a few other important pieces. The full performance-funding amount from those calculations won't kick in until fiscal year 2018—before then, they'll be increased by fixed percentages each year until they're fully available. That's why they're saying this performance funding is "phased in."

Perhaps more controversially, the "base level" of state per-pupil funding is also set to decline by 1.66 percent over five years in the bill, from $3,267.72 in fiscal 2013 to $3,213.82 in fiscal 2018.

The East Valley Tribune reports that the total amount of performance funding in Brewer's budget would be capped at $56 million in the governor's proposed budget, and $38 million of that would be "new funding." The remaining $18 million would be "reallocated" from districts and charters. Districts and charters that don't qualify for either kind of performance funding would lose per-pupil funding to the reallocated $18 million.

That figure concerns people who don't like the performance-funding model Brewer has proposed and say that demographics, not student performance, would be the real subject of performance bonuses.

"I think that any time you talk about a funding model that takes away resources from a school that's already having problems you're not going to have a solution that actually works," said Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, the House minority leader, told the paper.

The legislation has gotten the thumbs-up from the state Senate's education and appropriations committee, and is awaiting action by the rules committee, the paper reported.

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