A coalition of business community leaders and backers of education reform are calling on Gov. Katie Hobbs and state legislators to protect the education funding stream known as Results-Based Funding.
Adopted in 2017 by former Gov. Doug Ducey and the state Legislature, the funding model incentivizes academic excellence by allocating funds to schools that improve their scores on state assessments, with bonus funding to those schools that have a high percentage of students who participate in the Free and Reduced Lunch program.
The program is currently funded at $68.6 million annually, a fraction of Gov. Hobbs’ $9 billion proposal for K-12 education in her Fiscal Year 2024 budget request. So far, Results-Based Funding has seen significant success, according to Emily Anne Gullickson, president of Great Leaders, Strong Schools.
“One of the things that is exciting since this program was enacted in 2017 is that we are seeing pockets of excellence, we are seeing schools growing significantly with their students, especially in rural Arizona,” Gullickson said in a legislative committee debate last month.
However, despite the program’s success, Hobbs has identified it for elimination in the state budget, which would halt funds to many public district and charter schools.
“This approach has largely benefitted only schools in high-wealth areas of Arizona’s two largest counties – Maricopa and Pima – while leaving rural and economically struggling areas behind,” Hobbs said in January during her State of the State address. “To address this inequity, my budget redirects the $68.6 million for that program to the Base Support Level, which goes to all schools across our state instead.”
Results-based funding was also targeted by state Sen. Christine Marsh, D-Phoenix, earlier in the legislative session. Her proposed legislation, SB 1231, would have repealed the education funding model.
Lisa Graham Keegan, vice chair of the board of directors at the Common Sense Institute, however, said that Results-Based Funding supported the very communities which Gov. Hobbs highlighted in her State of the State address.
“A key feature of Results-Based Funding from inception has been to double the reward amounts to schools in traditionally lower-income communities,” Keegan said. “The work here is critical, and the investment has helped these highly successful educators expand to serve even more of the students trying to get into their schools.”
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry and other business community advocates have touted the benefits of the funding model since its inception.
“We’ll continue to call for the preservation of Results Based Funding in the next state budget,” said Courtney Coolidge, the vice president of government affairs for the Chamber. “This program is highly targeted at schools earning excellent results, with an emphasis on those in rural and traditionally underperforming areas. This funds what we know works.”
The state Legislature must adopt a new state budget before the conclusion of the current fiscal year on June 30.