Funding for Arizona’s At-Risk Students

By Cassie Ronda | Dec. 8, 2015

Administrators struggle to find funding for the programs they want to offer their at-risk students

Eileen Sigmund

President and CEO, Arizona Charter Schools Association

"It's always astounding to me that our charters have performed as well as they have when I look at how little the resources are that are provided to them."

Bolivia Gaytan wants to do more for her students.

The night school administrator at Sequoia Choice Precision High School wants the school to have student clubs, alternative classes like nursing and culinary arts, a driving school and class trips to local universities and community colleges.

Though the 200-student charter school only recently reopened under new ownership, some of these programs are already in their foundational stages.

“I think we’re on the right track,” Gaytan said. “We just need a little time. And we need money.”

The plea for funds is familiar in a state ranked 48th for educational spending. But charter schools like Precision are especially in need.

Arizona charter schools receive $1,055 less per student than public schools, according to a 2014 fiscal breakdown from the Arizona Joint Legislative Budget Committee. And serving an at-risk student population comes with its own unique challenges, as acknowledged by the findings of Governor Doug Ducey’s Classrooms First Council.

With Proposition 123 on the ballot for May 2016, Gaytan and her fellow administrators anxiously await Arizonans’ verdict on whether to put $3.5 billion into state public schools over the next 10 years.

And regarding the disparity between charter and public school funding, there may be an end in sight. This month, the Classrooms First Council asked for an extension as they work to overhaul the state’s outdated funding formula.

Is it safe to be optimistic then?

“I want to be optimistic!” said Sandy Ramirez, the assistant principal at Precision.

“We teach in this field; we have to be optimistic.”

Read an extended version of this story.

A quick look at the growth and funding of charter schools in the state.

Copy Editor | Cassie Ronda

Video Editor | Krandall Brantley

Graphic & Web Editor | Rochelle Romero

A collection of stories created by the 2015-2016 graduate students

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

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