Governor Ducey’s Classrooms First Initiative Council, which released its summary of findings this week, is on to some big ideas. The Council delivered 17 findings to the Governor, on the road to fulfilling its charge to modernize Arizona’s school finance system by refining it through the lens of clarity, transparency, and results. The Arizona Chamber and A for Arizona are pleased with the innovative thinking and emphasis on achievement revealed in this first round of findings and look forward to supporting the Council in their second phase of work to take place over the next 6-9 months.

We are particularly glad to see inclusion of a number of Arizona Chamber/A for Arizona-supported reform concepts. Specifically, the Council identifies support for increased access to school facilities and the establishment of an achievement weight, which would provide additional funding for high-performing, low-income schools. They also make budget-related recommendations that bring transparency and efficiency, such as requiring individual school-level reporting, and empowering school leaders to be more involved in making budget decisions.

Classrooms First Co-chair Jim Swanson called out the achievement weight proposal in particular as one of the most unique items included in the Council findings. We agree, and think it’s a great way to support those high achieving schools and their leaders who are beating the odds in their areas. This concept is right in line with the type of support and resources we would like to see going toward schools that are achieving results for their students despite challenging circumstances.

The Council notes there are a number of issues that remain to be addressed that should not be taken lightly, and therefore require more time to consider. With that in mind, the Council proposes a 6-9 month extension that will allow them to resolve the outstanding issues and return to the Governor with a final set of recommendations in 2016. We will continue to support the Council in a consulting capacity and remain enthusiastic about the dedication, commitment, and energy being put toward educational achievement in our state.

Stay tuned, as we’ll continue to provide updates throughout the duration of the Classrooms First work!