Monday, February 10, 2014

Democrats pushing for education reforms

Democrats pushing for education reforms

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Arizona House Democrats continue to make education a top priority and have introduced several bills intended to improve the quality of and access to educational opportunities.

“The best way to achieve long-term economic security in our state is to invest in education,” Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 28), said. “Our kids need to be prepared for an economy that is becoming more competitive and increasingly global. We need an educational system that contributes to a highly skilled workforce.”

Meyer is sponsoring a bill that would require schools to provide academic interventions to all students with grade point averages below 2.0. District governing boards would determine the appropriate intervention for the student, which could include tutoring or additional class time.

“The goal of HB 2144 is to encourage schools to identify the students who need more attention and provide them the support they require,” Meyer said. “Scottsdale Unified School District has already implemented this program and it has promise. I believe the sooner we help these kids get back on track, the better off they will be.”

Rep. Andrew Sherwood, D-Tempe (District 26), has a bill that would help lower classroom sizes. He said Republicans have cut around $3 billion from education in recent years, which has contributed to increasing classroom sizes. HB 2213 would invest a million dollars to establish a five-year pilot program to fund efforts to reduce class sizes to between 15 and 22 students in grades kindergarten through third, and also improve teacher retention.

“There is a growing body of research that shows a connection between class size and student achievement. With that in mind, this legislation would give teachers and school administrators incentive to be innovative,” Sherwood said. “They’re in the field and they’re professionals. We should trust them to find the best way to lower class sizes and keep teachers involved.”

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 24), wants to make it easier to budget for higher education. For the second year, Campbell introduced a bill that would make tuition rates more predictable for families. HB 2244 would create a statewide system similar to the Northern Arizona University pledge system that allows a freshman entering a university to pay the same tuition for four years.

“Budgeting for college should not have to be a guessing game, and tuition rates should not be a moving target,” Campbell said. “This is common-sense legislation that will help families prepare for the cost of education.”

Campbell added that his bill and the legislation being introduced by his colleagues offer inventive solutions for the issues Arizona schools face but a lack of funding remains the primary problem.

“Ultimately, if we want our schools to succeed, we need to fund them,” Campbell said. “Last year, we successfully secured $116 million for schools to cover rising inflation costs, fund building renewal grants, and improve school safety and adult education programs. That’s a good start but it will take much more. For example, we need to provide resources for the implementation of Arizona’s Common Core Standards, and we have to prevent extremists from putting education funding on the chopping block year after year.”

To see the full version of HB 2213, go to:

To see the full version of HB 2244, go to:


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