Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Results-Based Funding: The Transition From Test Scores To School Grades

Posted By on Tue, Oct 17, 2017 at 2:10 PM

We already know which schools are splitting up the $38 million in results-based funding for the 2017-18 school year. The money is going disproportionately to schools with students from the most affluent homes. The top 11 percent of schools by family income make up almost 40 percent of schools getting the funding. Even more of those schools would get the funding if it weren't for a stipulation built into the formula to make sure the bottom 50 percent of schools in terms of student income make up almost half the schools getting the money. Next year, that stipulation is gone.

Most likely in the 2018-19 school year, over 80 percent of the schools getting results-based funding will be from the top half of schools in terms of family income. That means less than 20 percent of the schools will be in the bottom half.

And yet, some schools with high income students are complaining because they're not getting their expected piece of the results-based pie. And no wonder. If a high income school makes the list, it sees close to $6,000 extra per teacher, enough to give teachers a sizable bonus and still have plenty left over for educational equipment and supplies other schools can't afford. If it doesn't make the cut, the school gets nothing.

An explanation of how this works can be mind-numbingly detailed, at least when I'm the guy doing the explaining, so I've created a table I hope will make things clearer. After that, I'll numb the minds of those who dare stick around for all the numbers and explanations.


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Monday, October 16, 2017

Board of Supes Set To Discuss Christy Proposal for Countywide Sales Tax for Roads

Posted By on Mon, Oct 16, 2017 at 11:30 AM

Pima County Supervisor Steve Christy says the region's transportation problems will get worse “every day that we don’t attend to our road-repair crisis.”
  • Pima County Supervisor Steve Christy says the region's transportation problems will get worse “every day that we don’t attend to our road-repair crisis.”
Pima County Supervisor Steve Christy wants a countywide half-cent-sales-tax increase to deal with the county’s dilapidated roads.

Christy’s “Just Fix the Roads Plan” also calls for repealing the property tax increase the county passed in June and send the revenues from his proposed 10-year sales tax to the Regional Transportation Authority so that agency can manage the road repairs.

Christy, who announced his plan last week in Green Valley, said the situation will just get worse “every day that we don’t attend to our road-repair crisis.” The sales tax would bring in roughly $75 million annually, raising $800 million by the 10-year sunset of the tax. The county needs about $900 million for road repair, according to the county transportation department.

The property tax that the Board of Supervisors created earlier this year would only bring in just over $19.5 million annually, according to county documents. Christy and Supervisor Ally Miller opposed the 25-cent property tax when it passed with a 3-2 vote.

The 2017 property tax for road repair has already been levied, and some payments have been collected, according to the County Administrator’s Office. The five-year tax called for annual renewal, so the Board could choose not to renew it next year.

The sales-tax would need unanimous approval to pass. Christy said that with his background as a car salesman, he can hear the other supervisors’ concerns and negotiate an agreement. He hopes to reach a unanimous vote by late November or early December.

Any other possibilities would require either voter approval, which would take time and could get rejected, or action from the state. Chances of help from the Gov. Doug Ducey are next to zero, Christy said.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Koch Brothers Infiltrate Pima County Schools With a High School Econ Course

Posted By on Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 10:35 AM

  • DonkeyHotey
I have a story in this week's print edition. You can read it here. This is the short version.

The Koch Brothers put up a million dollars. Ken and Randy Kendrick (he owns the Arizona Diamondbacks) pitched in even more. They funded UA's Center for the Philosophy of Freedom, usually shortened to the "Freedom Center," which opened in 2011. From the beginning, the Freedom Center folks had their eyes on training high school teachers in their special brand of libertarian economics and creating courses to be used in high schools.

Starting last year, "Phil 101: Ethics, Economy, and Entrepreneurship” is being offered in Tucson Unified's high schools. This year it's being taught in four of the district high schools as well as schools in the Amphitheater, Vail and Sahuarita school districts and at least seven private and charter schools in Pima and Maricopa counties.  The course was created by the Freedom Center, members of its faculty wrote the textbook, and it offers workshops to instruct high school teachers on how to teach the class. They plan to spread the course to high schools across the state and the country, the more the merrier.

This isn't someone at the Freedom Center saying, "Hey, I have an idea, let's spread our ideology to the high school classroom!" It's part of a carefully conceived plan by the Koch Brothers which began in the 1980s and includes universities across the country, think tanks (the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation are two of the best known examples) and dissemination to the general public, including high school students.

If you want the details, read the article.

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Town and County Officials Say Supervisor Miller is Misleading the Public on Bond Issue

Posted By on Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 8:31 AM

In a letter dated Oct. 11, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry sent an email to Oro Valley town manager Mary Jacobs regarding District 1 Supervisor Ally Miller's alleged statements on the Let Oro Valley Excel blog.

Responding to Miller's statement that he misleads voters on bond propositions, Huckelberry has this to say:

"I can assure you that neither assertion is true. In 1997, voters approved $52.65 million for parks and in 2004, $96.45 million. It is verifiable that Pima County never proposed $1 million for every county or municipal park and it is verifiable that in neither election did all of the parks money approved by voters end up being used for a single park."

Huckelberry goes on to write that he is "at a loss" as to why Milelr would "disseminate such false and misleading information" regarding the bond.

"The only logical reason is that it was done to affect the outcome of the Proposition 454 bond election," Huckelberry wrote.

The county administrator ended his letter by suggesting that Jacobs refer the issue to the town attorney for review as to "whether any state election laws have been violated."

Both Let Oro Valley Excel and Supervisor Miller have not returned requests for communication regarding the issue, though the blog did post an update since this story was originally published.

Original Story:
In the weeks leading up to Oro Valley’s Nov. 7 election to decide the fate of a $17 million bond to improve Naranja Park, elected officials and residents have been weighing in via a variety of media: newspapers, web commercials, blogs and more.

It appears that District 1 Supervisor Ally Miller has had her say in the debate on Proposition 454—in the form of a blog post. Uploaded on Tuesday, Oct. 11, on the Let Oro Valley Excel blog site was an email allegedly sent from Miller detailing some of “her thoughts on the Naranja Park Bond.”

Within the excerpts of the letter uploaded to the blog, Miller—who did not return phone calls to confirm that she actually wrote the note—states that there are “issues” with the recently released publicity pamphlet on the bond and takes aim at one of her favorite targets, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.

Miller said in her email that because the sample ballot contains the words “Parks, open space, recreational bonds” within the “purpose” section, that the funding could be used “on any parks, for purchase of open space, and any recreational purpose.”

But in an email sent to an town resident by Oro Valley senior office specialist Tara Barry, that claim is refuted.

“Supervisor Miller’s assertion that proceeds from the bonds may be used for any Town of Oro Valley park is incorrect,” Barry wrote in her email.

Barry elaborated by saying that the “purpose” listed on the sample ballot is “a summary caption” that does not expand, limit or contradict the specific ballot question asked of voters.

On the sample ballot, the following paragraph is listed after the “purpose”:

“Shall the Town of Oro Valley, Arizona, be authorized to issue and sell general obligation bonds to the Town in the principal amount of $17,000,000 to provide funds to design construct, improve, furnish and equip multi-purpose fields, diamond fields, playgrounds and associated infrastructure and amenities for Naranja Park…”

While Barry’s email did contradict one of Miller’s statements, her communication did support another.

“Supervisor Miller’s assertion that the renderings and list of amenities to be constructed at Naranja Park is non-binding is correct; however, the Town was very specific in its description of amenities and intentions, and provided cost estimates for what will be constructed at Naranja Park should the Oro Valley voters approve the bond,” Barry wrote.

According to Arizona Revised Statutes 35-455, a governing body which utilizes bond funding may only use that revenue “for the purposes stated in the ballot and for the necessary costs and expenses of the issuance and sale of the bonds.”

When looking at the per annum interest rate utilized to calculate the fiscal impact for the bond if passed, Miller correctly pointed out that the rate included in the bond could be as high as 7 percent, but town calculations were performed at 5 percent.

“Ask the Town for the calculations at the 7 [percent] interest rate that voters are being asked to approve. [2 percent] will make a huge difference,” Miller wrote.

According to Barry’s email, the interest rate calculations were completed “in accordance with current Arizona statutes and reflect a reasonable expectation of interest rates based on bond market conditions and is common practice.”

Barry listed the November 2015 Pima County Bond Voter Information Pamphlet, in which the county stated that it had a maximum interest rate of 8 percent, but that an interest rate of 2.78 percent was used for first 5 years, 3.20 percent for next five years and 3.45 percent per year thereafter.

“Therefore, the Town of Oro Valley states a maximum interest rate of 7 [percent], but utilized a 5 [percent] calculation as a ‘reasonable expectation,’ and could actually see lower interest rates based on actual market conditions as stated in the historic numbers provided by Pima County stated above,” Barry wrote in her constituent email.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Some Charter Schools Pay Students To Enroll, Or Get Their Friends To Enroll

Posted By on Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 9:21 AM

A story from ProPublica came across my desktop today, For-Profit Schools Reward Students for Referrals and Facebook Endorsements. It's about a for-profit charter school in Florida where students get a $25 gift card for every new student they find for the school.
Such incentives are rampant among for-profit operators of public alternative high schools like North Nicholas, which serves students at risk of dropping out. These schools market aggressively to attract new students, especially during weeks when the state is tallying enrollment for funding purposes. They often turn their students into promoters, dangling rewards for plugs on social media, student referrals or online reviews, a ProPublica-USA Today investigation found. Some also offer valuable perks simply for enrolling.
It reminded me of a story Ann-Pedersen told in 2013 on the cable access program she and I used to put together, Education: The Rest of the Story (It's a three minute video if you want to watch). As her son was walking out of his Tucson Unified middle school toward the end of the school year, he was handed a flier promising him $100 if he enrolled in the new charter, Rising School.

Tucson's Rising School currently has about 80 students. So far as I can tell, it no longer offers students $100 to enroll, but it does offer them $100 if they have perfect attendance for the first hundred days of school. I don't suppose it's a coincidence that enrollment during the first hundred days is what determines schools' state funding.

And whether the money goes to students for enrolling or for having perfect attendance, that $100 comes out of the state's funding for the school.

I don't know if this kind of thing is common in Arizona, but like so many questionable charter school practices, it looks like it's perfectly legit.

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Kirkpatrick Wins EMILY's List Nod in Race Against U.S. Rep. McSally

Posted By on Mon, Oct 9, 2017 at 11:19 PM

With just two women among the five Democrats seeking to unseat Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally in Southern Arizona’s Congressional District 2, EMILY’s List had to make a choice between a former congresswoman in Ann Kirkpatrick and a retired Pentagon accountant in Mary Matiella.

The D.C.-based fundraising titan is going with Kirkpatrick.

Emily List President Stephanie Schriock called Kirkpatrick “a trailblazer who loves Arizona. Arizonans need her leadership and courage so she can continue fighting for opportunity, shared economic prosperity, and safe and thriving communities.”

It’s another sign—beyond Kirkpatrick’s third-quarter fundraising haul of $350K and her recent endorsements from former Southern Arizona representatives Gabby Giffords and Ron Barber—that the D.C. establishment is coming together to back Kirkpatrick, who previously represented another competitive Arizona district, the sprawling CD1.

But Matiella, who grew up in Tucson and beat the odds to build a long career as an accountant for the federal government, peaking as a United States Assistant Secretary of the Army in the financial arena during the Obama administration, has picked up her share of endorsements from Southern Arizona Democrats, including Congresswman Raul Grijalva, Pima County Supervisors Sharon Bronson and Richard Elias, Tucson City Councll members Regina Romero and Paul Cunningham.

The other Democrats vying for the nomination are former lawmakers Matt Heinz and Bruce Wheeler and political rookie Billy Kovacs.

Democrats hope to take back Congressional District 2 next year from McSally, who is in her second term. The former A-10 squadron leader is a rising Republican star who has been one of the top fundraisers in Congress, but also represents one of the most competitive seats in the nation. She won her seat by just 167 votes in 2014 when she unseated Barber, but easily cruised to reelection against Heinz last year.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Raising the CD2 Ante: Challenger Kirkpatrick Raises $350,000 in Third Quarter

Posted By on Fri, Oct 6, 2017 at 8:49 AM

Ann Kirkpatrick
  • Ann Kirkpatrick
Ann Kirkpatrick, one of five Democrats vying to unseat Congresswoman Martha McSally next year, has raised $350,000 since entering the race two months ago.

Team Kirkpatrick boasted that the "haul is a record-breaking amount for a Democratic challenger in Arizona in an off-year third quarter."

Kirkpatrick, who previously represented Congressional District 1 until last year (when she stepped down to unsuccessfully challenge Sen. John McCain), will report more than $270,000 cash on hand when she files her FEC report, according to Team Kirkpatrick.

"I am humbled by the outpouring of support, especially from grassroots donors in the first months of the campaign," said Kirkpatrick. "I am ready to hold Martha McSally accountable for her reckless vote for the deadly Republican health care repeal that would kick more than 400,000 Arizonans off of their health coverage. Southern Arizona deserves better."

The news is yet another sign that the battle over Southern Arizona highly competitive Congressional District will be a hard-fought race. The DCCC announced early this week that it would launch a TV and radio campaign tagging McSally over her health care vote. In addition, House Speaker Paul Ryan's Super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, has set up office in Tucson to boost McSally's fortunes.

Kirkpatrick, who recently landed the endorsement of former member of Congress Gabby Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly,  is vying against fellow Democrats Matt Heinz, Mary Matiella, Bruce Wheeler and Billy Kovacs for the Democratic nomination in next year's primary.

All five Democrats are scheduled to attend a forum at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 26, at Rincon High School. I will be moderating the panel.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Best Way To Get Results-Based Funding Is To Be Well-Off and White

Posted By on Wed, Oct 4, 2017 at 8:24 AM

The results are in. The Arizona Department of Education published a list of all the schools getting results-based funding for the 2017-18 school year. There aren't any real surprises for those of us who have been paying attention since the bill passed during the last legislative session. As expected, the list is heavy with schools filled with students from well-to-do families.

But, as skewed as this year's funding is toward more affluent Arizonans, this is likely be the most equitable spread of results-based money ever. Indications are, things will get far more inequitable starting next year. Hold that thought while I go through this year's numbers.

Just under 300 schools will receive results-based funding—about 17 percent of the state's district and charter schools. Between 35 and 40 percent of them have fewer than 30 percent of their students on free or reduced lunch even though only 18 percent of the state's schools fit into that category. On the other end of the economic spectrum, about 10 percent of schools on the list have more than 80 percent of their students on free or reduced lunch, even though over 30 percent of the state's schools fit into that category.

That means, if you're in one of the schools in the highest rent districts, you're far more likely to reap the benefits of results-based funding than if you're in a school in the poorer parts of town. You're also far more likely to be white and far less likely to be struggling with the English language or have learning disabilities.

That's what things look like at the economic extremes. If we look at all the schools on the list, the story stays pretty much the same. A majority of the state's schools—about 57 percent—have more than half their students on F/R lunch, yet they make up only about a third of the schools on the list. The other two-thirds are drawn from the 43 percent of schools with fewer low income students.

But wait 'til next year. As I said earlier, the numbers will only get more skewed toward the well-off and white.

Those are the basics for this year. Now, let's look at what results-based funding means in dollars and cents, then why the funds will favor schools in high rent districts even more in following years.

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