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Education Relief Act Awaiting Governor’s Signature

The Arizona State Senate on Tuesday passed SB 1263, the Education Relief Act, after being passed by the House on Monday, sending it to the Governor for her signature. SB 1263, sponsored by Mesa Republican Rich Crandall, is a wide-ranging education bill that encourages efficiency by giving schools flexibility, cutting red tape, and freeing up dollars for the classroom.

“If signed by the Governor, SB 1263 will give much needed regulatory relief to school districts across the state, but more importantly, the bill maintains millions of dollars in funding for teachers and the classroom for the coming school year,” says Sen. Crandall, the Senate Education Committee Chair.

“SB 1263 is very comprehensive. It provides some minor relief, such as the ability to maintain electronic records instead of paper copies, but there are also major items included such as maintaining funding in the classroom site fund,” says Janice Palmer, Director of Government Relations for the Arizona School Boards Association. “Probably every district in the state will benefit from some provision included in SB 1263.” says Palmer.

Vail School DistrictSuperintendent Calvin Baker is an enthusiastic supporter of SB 1263. “The most significant provision in the bill for our district is the leveling of the Classroom Site Fund. This is going to protect $350,000 worth of teachers’ base pay. With teachers already taking a hit, protecting them from a second hit is essential, and it is contingent upon the Governor’s signature,” says Superintendent Baker.

The bill is also being praised for its innovation in moving toward an electronic payment system with County School Superintendents. “The ability to process warrants electronically makes sense. Our schools are struggling just to find enough space to file public records, and with this bill, storage will not be an issue. These may seem like small changes, but they add up and are extremely vital for streamlining and efficiency in schools,” says Baker.

Becky Hill, education lobbyist for Hill Advocacy, notes that although some of the bill’s provisions seem small, “every little bit helps. The provisions of this bill pull back on unnecessary tasks that are often unrelated to school, creating efficiency in the districts by saving time and money at a time when revenues are already so tight.”

One other significant provision of the Education Relief Act is the temporary ability to increase bonding capacity for maintenance, repairs and construction of schools. “This bill makes up for a promise a previous legislature made that we haven’t been able to keep. In 1998, the state settled a lawsuit on school construction by agreeing to pay for all future construction, repairs and maintenance of schools out of the General Fund,” says Sen. Crandall. He continues, “Because of our economic situation, we have not funded this obligation for the last four years, and we probably won’t for the next few. For those districts that already have a voter approved bond, we provide them with some of the flexibility they used to have before the 1998 lawsuit. It’s the right thing to do.”

The bill will also give the State Board for Charter Schools the ability to establish a fund for approved gifts or grants in the form of money or property.

Governor Brewer has this week to act on signing the measure.

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