Arizona House Education Leaders Consider Changes To English Language Learning, Kindergarten Data, School Procurement

Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2019 - 1:51pm
Updated: Tuesday, January 29, 2019 - 3:31pm
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Bills that could change everything from what information is collected about Arizona kindergartens to how the state teaches English-language learners are working their way through the Arizona Legislature.

On Monday, the Arizona House Education Committee met. Here are a few bills they discussed. The Arizona Senate Education Committee meets again Tuesday.

MORE: See Full Agenda

Arizona House Bill 2083

What it would do:

Require schools to submit information about their kindergarten programs such as whether it’s full-day, how it’s funding and the reading proficiency of these students.

What people said:  

“What’s the purpose of the data it’s not going to produce a highly qualified teacher?” asked Rep. Geraldine Peten, a Democrat from Goodyear. Peten was one of several people in the committee that wondered how effective more data would be at changing the outcomes for Arizona students.

Other lawmakers like Leo Biasiucci, a Republican from Lake Havasu City, argued the data was necessary.

“I don’t wanna just say we need full day kindergarten just because I feel like we need full day kindergarten,” Biasiucci said. “I want the data I want it so we can say hey there’s a need for this.”

Did the bill advance?

Yes.

Arizona House Bill 2184

What it would do: Give schools more options for teaching English-language learners. The current four-hour block schools have to use to teach only English has been unpopular and is believed to contribute to Arizona’s low graduation rates for these students

What people said:

Paula Cortes is a language acquisition specialist in Tucson and said this system causes these students, called Els, to fall behind in other areas.

“Sometimes schools have to steal minutes from math or remove an elective that a student loves,” Cortes said. “Social studies and a science take a backseat. To the point where I see ELs and former Els arrive in high school without ever having studied American history. ”

Rep. Reginald Bolding, a Democrat from Phoenix, who is a former special education teacher, said the restrictive model effectively segregated English learners.

“If we can provide an opportunity for them to receive those resources in a way that’s not excluding them, but that’s bringing them closer, I’m all for that,” Bolding said.

Did the bill advance?

Yes, and an identical bill is advancing in the Senate

Arizona House Bill 2310

What it would do:  Reverse 2018’s last-minute changes to school procurement rules.  Districts went from being able to choose from a variety of regulated practices to having to choose the lowest bidder for goods and projects. This bill would reverse those changes.

What people said:

“Lowest cost does not always mean that you’re getting what you need and timeliness and other considerations need to be made,” said bill sponsor Rep. Michelle Udall, a Republican from Mesa.

“We support districts having the most tools in their toolbox to make the best decisions for the taxpayers, the students, the parents the teachers in their district, said Tom Dunn, president of the Arizona Builders Alliance. “Alternative delivery methods become law years ago because there were major problems with solely using hard bid in public procurement.”

Basically, he said, there are problems with only buying the cheapest product or getting the job done for the lowest price.

Did the bill advance?

Yes.

Red In The Audience

There were several dozen people in red shirts, watching the committee meeting, a nod to the state’s #RedForEd movement to increase funding for public education.

One of them was Jill Humpherys, a mother, grandmother and Gilbert school board member. She said districts like hers still have budget challenges despite increases in education funding.

“Last year the governor made the promise of 20 (percent raises) by 2020 but he didn’t give us enough to give (it to) the broadest definition of teacher,” Humpherys said.

What she means by broadest definition of teacher is roles in the school including counselors and psychologists.  The Arizona Republic reported Gilbert Public Schools was able to give a 9 percent salary raise to teachers and a 5 percent raise for administrators, support staff and certified staff.

Another thing to consider is that all Arizona schools districts have had to raise the minimum wage of their janitorial, food service and other classified staff to comply with state law.

They haven’t necessarily gotten extra funding to do that. 

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