PHOENIX -- State lawmakers refused Thursday to increase the incentive for some schools to add an extra 20 days.
On a 4-5 vote the Senate Education Committee rejected legislation which would have given schools an 8 percent bump in state aid for go to 200 days. The vote occurred even though the legislation already had been scaled back so that only underperforming and failing schools would be eligible for the additional funds.
Sen. Chester Crandell, R-Heber, said he's not convinced it's worth the money.
"I'm not sure we're getting a full 180-day calendar for instructional time,' he said, what with time taken out for everything from assemblies to sports. "We need to look at the time we're paying for now.'
Existing law already allows school to extend the year.
But that 1997 law provides just an extra 5 percent in state funds even though the number of days is being increased by 11 percent. It also requires a district-wide decision.
Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, said the 8 percent extra might provide just enough incentive. And HB 2488 would scrap that district-wide mandate in favor of permitting local governing boards to conclude the move makes sense for only schools with the greatest need.
Boyer said there is plenty of evidence that more time makes a difference.
He said the Balsz Elementary School District in Phoenix, operating at 180 days, had two of its five schools under state improvement orders. Adding those extra 20 days, Boyer said, has resulted in all schools rated as performing or better.
Crandell was unimpressed, questioning how anyone could conclude that the change was related solely or largely to more time in class.
Sen. Rick Murphy, R-Glendale, had other concerns.
He pointed out that the law makes the extra funds available to schools rated D or F by the state. But once a school gets the additional dollars it remains eligible forever, even if student academic performance improves sharply.
Murphy said that could provide an incentive for a C-rated school to purposely slide, at least briefly, knowing that it would trigger extra dollars for years to come.