PHOENIX - State lawmakers voted Tuesday to give more money to the most underperforming schools, if they are willing to stay in session longer.
The House approved legislation which would give schools an 8 percent boost in state aid if they extend their school year to at least 200 days - 20 days more than are now required.
The 43-14 vote, however, occurred only after Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, agreed to scale back the measure.
Schools already can get a 5 percent bonus. But Boyer said that has prompted only a handful of districts adopt an 11 percent increase in school days.
His original plan would have offered all schools 8 percent more. But Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said he feared giving that option to more than 2,000 schools would bankrupt the state.
So the version that now goes to the Senate gives the 8 percent option only to schools that received a D or an F rating on their latest "report cards" from the state Department of Education. Boyer said that trims the list of eligible schools to just about 250.
He said, though, these are the schools that are in most need of extra time with students.
Boyer cited the inner-city Balsz Elementary School District in Phoenix which took advantage of the 5 percent bonus four years ago and extended its school year.
He said before the change just 20 to 30 percent of the district's students were meeting or exceeding state standards for what is expected of youngsters at each grade. Now, Boyer said, that figure is in the 60 to 80 percent range.
"It works," he said.
Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale, an opponent, said he's not convinced the extra days will make a difference, and the longer school year will shorten kids' exposure to their families, which also has value.
But Rep Lisa Otondo, D-Yuma, said her experience as a teacher convinces her the extra time, perhaps mixed with a more flexible schedule, is good for children.
ON THE NET
For a list of the latest school report cards go to: www10.ade.az.gov/ ReportCard