Office of Education

Governor's Remarks at June 26th Classrooms First Initiative Council Meeting

June 26, 2015

Good afternoon, everyone.

I'd like to begin by thanking all of the Council members for being here today, and for your commitment and willingness to join me – and Jim – in this important work.

We've got a group of bold leaders with big ideas here – some of which aren't going to make everyone happy 100 percent of the time.

But that's not our charge. Our charge is to ensure that every child – regardless of where they live – has access to an excellent education.

And that begins in the classroom.

That's why I named this group Classrooms First ... and filled it with some of the top educational and finance experts in Arizona.

It's because I strongly believe that student-teacher interaction – in whatever educational environment they may be – is the center point of student success.

That's not a political statement ... that's a fact.

And since we know that quality in the classroom is crucial to a quality education, we must focus on promoting Educational Excellence ... Choice ... and a Funding System that drives every classroom to that end.

I have the vision – and you have the knowledge – to improve our system of public education to the highest level we know our children deserve.

So let's put it to good use.

Here are the guiding principles I want us to follow:

First:
As we talk about our goals for our public education system – we must talk about in the context of what's best for our kids.

That means, we won't worry about how our reforms will affect the adults in the system. And we won't worry about changing 30 years of "We have always done it this way."

"This way" isn't working anymore. It's time to get rid of old processes and the habits that go with them. If something's broken, we fix it. Period.

Second:

I no longer want to talk about funding schools in the context of attendance or seat time.

Don't get me wrong – we need kids to come to school every day. But it should NOT be the sole driver of our funding system.

Our students and their parents should be driven to a public school for its excellence and the impact it makes on a child's present and future.

Academic outcomes must be the cornerstone of a funding system that drives success ... and through it, a natural, organic focus on classroom and instructional spending.

Third:

There is no question our schools are overburdened with excessive bureaucracy and reporting on every dollar they receive. Those administrative resources should be repurposed for instruction and classroom support.

And for far too long, our policies have dis-incentivized school leaders who strive for innovation and efficiency. I believe efficiency should be rewarded with flexibility -- NOT punished through diminished funding.

Fourth:

While we currently have a system where money follows the student – it's incomplete, it's not transparent ... and often, by the time it gets to the school, it's not in the full amount to which the student is entitled.

I do recognize that we have other underfunded levers – like special education and at-risk students – that draw from every student and create inequities.

If we can figure out how to impact the real costs of these students, funding will truly be in the backpack.

But I also want a solution to ensure that parents know exactly how and where a school's resources are being allocated and spent. It's a matter of transparency, and parents deserve that.

Fifth:

I want our funding system to draw principals into the school's budgeting process. I recognize and respect that every system - school district or charter – has a governing body that is charged with the overall administration of its schools.

However, I also firmly believe that great schools do not exist apart from great leaders. And through my education policy agenda, I intend to prioritize the development of high quality principals. I want a funding system that matches.

And finally, I want a school funding formula that everyone can understand.

I'm told that the four different formulas we have for school districts, charters, online schools, and JTEDs are pretty simple.

Taking each one at face value, perhaps that's true ... but not when it comes to implementation.

So, let's get one formula right ... and apply it to every school equitably.

There's one final thing I want to address before I conclude.

Since the formation of this counsel, we've made a major education announcement.

As you're probably aware, I'm proposing a plan to put more than $2 billion in new money into our K-12 system, without raising taxes or touching the state general fund.

I've said those are new dollars – fresh dollars – to give our teachers, principals and students the resources they desperately need.

I want to be clear: this counsel is focused on long-term reforms to funding for our schools so that we're better using the dollars we already have.

But existing dollars aren't enough – and they need them as quickly as possible. Our schools need more resources added to the pot. This proposal does that.

I hope I can count on your support to get this common-sense, critical measure to the ballot in 2016.
I know we have an enormous job in front of us, but I also know we can do it ... and we must.

Thank you again for your work – I look forward to getting preliminary remarks in September. Please call on me or Jim any time through this process. This is a team effort and we're all committed to getting it done, and getting it done together.

I'm happy to answer any questions you may have.

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