Rural School Funding News: Wide-Ranging Developments in Arizona

Last Updated: November 06, 2008

This article appeared in the November 2008 Rural Policy Matters.

Consolidation: A consolidation plan presented to the legislature by the School Redistricting Commission proposes to consolidate 76 districts that have only elementary or high school grades into 27 districts with all grades. Voters in the affected districts will approve or reject the plan this month. Predictably, supporters tout cost-savings and curriculum alignment, while opponents question those savings and point to K-12 curriculum alignment already underway.

Graduation Exam: The state has won a class action lawsuit that challenged the high school graduation test, Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS). A trial court ruled in Espinoza v. Arizona State Board of Education that the plaintiffs had not met their burden of proof. Changes, however, could be in the works as a state task force considers testing alternatives to AIMS. Students are currently allowed to supplement their AIMS scores with points for good grades.

English Language Learners (ELL): The state is seeking the U.S. Supreme Court's assistance in ending the long running Flores case. Kenneth Starr, now in private practice, filed a petition with the Court to end the jurisdiction of the federal district court judge in the case, stating that control over ELL programs should be returned to state education officials. The judge has repeatedly found Arizona's ELL funding and programs lacking, and the Ninth Circuit has upheld his rulings. Currently, Arizona's ELL students are pulled from regular classes for instruction in English language and grammar four hours each day, an approach widely criticized by experts.

Read more:

Coverage of rural perspective on consolidation: Link to Arizona Department of Education Redistricting Plan: AIMS lawsuit and revamping coverage: ELL commentary:

Read more from the November 2008 Rural Policy Matters.