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Mon, Oct. 14

Principals, not school boards, will control 301 money

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan is misinterpreting how Prop 301 intends Classroom Site Fund monies be distributed, two professional school organizations say, and one of them is advising school districts to design their own plans for teacher performance pay.

"There really is no question," said Patricia Likens, spokesperson for Keegan. "If school districts choose to interpret 301 their way, they'll have to go back to the legislature."

"Soon after Prop 301 passed, Superintendent Keegan indicated building principals should have the sole discretion in determining all of the 'whats' and 'hows' of 301," Humboldt School District Superintendent Ron Maughan told the school board in a Dec. 6 memo. "I personally don't believe this was the general intent of the legislature."

Arizona School Boards Association and the Arizona School Administrators organization disagree with Keegan regarding who will determine spending of Classroom Site Fund (CSF) monies - the school boards or the building principals. They also disagree with Keegan whether teacher performance pay must be based upon individual teacher performance, or whether it may instead be awarded to all teachers on a campus when a school has reached specific student achievement goals.

Proposition 301 will provide Humboldt Unified School District with an estimated $1.25 million to $1.5 million CSF dollars next year, 20 percent of which is for teacher salaries, and 40 percent for teacher performance pay. The remaining 40 percent will go to a maintenance and operation budget for "menu items" - class size reduction, teacher compensation increases and teacher development, AIMS intervention programs, dropout prevention, and school calendar extension.

In a Dec. 14 memo to school district superintendents, principals, school boards, and charter schools, Keegan reaffirmed her position that principals should decide the dissemination of CSF monies.

Keegan said Prop 301's parent bill, SB 1007, "puts the principal in the driver's seat and should discourage the district from expending these funds outside the priorities identified by the school principal."

Keegan's memo, however, stops short of saying school boards have no choice but to defer to principals. The memo consistently uses the word "should" rather than "must." Elsewhere it reads, "...a school district should make every reasonable effort to honor the school's priorities as identified by the principal," and "district officials should accept the recommendations of principals."

In that memo Keegan also insists that performance pay be based upon individual teacher performance.

"The legislative intent...was to increase teacher salaries based on the performance of individual teachers, not schools," she wrote. "This provision was designed to reward and retain the highest quality teachers in Arizona classrooms. Plans to base performance pay increases on school, rather than individual teacher performance, are inconsistent with the intent of this provision."

On Nov. 28 Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA) sent letters to Keegan and its member school boards, superintendents, and principals opposed to Keegan's interpretations.

The letter from ASBA states that ARS 15-977 - created by SB 1007, enabled by passage of Prop 301 - offers no guidance on what constitutes 'performance pay.'

"The only requirement is that the district allocate the funds based on performance; without other guidance, the district has the discretion to decide what that performance will be," the ASBA letter to Keegan reads. "We must disagree with you that legislative intent calls for individualized performance plans only...Instead, Prop 301 provides great latitude to districts in collaboratively designing a performance plan that is right for that district," the ASBA letter continues. "This may include the use of team concepts in the plan."

One team concept would award performance pay to all teachers at a school when that school reached specified standards of student achievement, perhaps measured in Stanford 9 and/or AIMS scores.

In that letter ASBA Executive Director Panfilo Contreras said the deliberate changes to SB 1007 as it made its way through the legislature before emerging in its final permutation back the ASBA position.

"Your assertion that 301 requires performance plans that are individual to each teacher's performance is thus curious, given the plain language of the statute and the legislative history of SB 1007 which suggests the intent of the Legislature was to grant broad discretion to local districts," Contreras wrote.

"Barring further direction from the Legislature or Office of the Attorney General, it is our full intention to advise districts that they have broad discretion in designing and implementing their plans."

ASBA also told Keegan an amendment to SB 1007 was clearly "meant to back away from the concept of sole principal control of the CSF, and instead make the CSF allocation process more cooperative between the district (school board) and the principal," the letter reads.

"We disagree that a near-absolute right is conferred to principals to decide the expenditure of 40 percent classroom site fund monies," the letter reads. "Instead, Prop 301 mandates a collaborative process between the district governing board and its principals..."

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