Ask the ASBA Policy Team
Is There an Inherent Conflict of Interest?
By Nick Buzan, ASBA Director of Legal and Policy Services
A board member recently asked me the following question: “If our policies are written by the Trust, will the Trust use that to force our hand on decisions typically reserved to boards?”
ASBA’s answer: That is a question for the Trust. ASBA cannot speak for the Trust and how they will utilize their policy services. We can speak for ASBA policy services.
State law places policy development, adoption and enforcement squarely in the realm of the board. It’s right there in A.R.S. §15-341(A). A pretty darn reasonable interpretation of this statute is that boards set policy. It’s their first and most important job.
Because of the size of the work demanded of boards, it is necessary that this work be outsourced — the question is, to whom? ASBA created policy services to help guide its member school boards in compliance-based school board policy to enable boards to do their #1 job. Along that path, ASBA has always stood for local control, in board policy and procedures. ASBA stands for local control regardless of political party — ASBA’s policy services is unequivocally non-partisan.
Take a look at ASBA’s PolicyBridge for example. Each and every school district that subscribes to ASBA’s policy services has locally crafted policies that have been “prescribed and enforced” by locally elected school board members across the state. No two district policy manuals are exactly alike. It is the picture of local control, and the model of local governance.
There is an inherent conflict of interest in outsourcing this job to any group that will limit a board’s ability to enact its own local interests on policy and procedures.
Now, back to that board member’s question… Let me answer it with a few questions of my own. These are questions I think board members ought to seriously consider:
- Does the Trust have any interest in dictating policy to school boards?
- Is there a financial interest in controlling the policies that boards enact?
- Are there foreseeable scenarios where the Trust’s interests will conflict with the school boards and if that occurs will the school board member’s statutory duty prevail, or will the Trust’s interests prevail?
- Do the Trust’s interests in minimizing settlement expenses and pre-paid legal expenses conflict with board policy?
These are also questions the Trust must be able to answer.
Think about this: Do other vendor contracts demand that policy be amended to provide their particular service? Imagine a scenario where your HVAC vendor demands that you utilize their policy. The policy requires inspections and upgrades of air conditioning units monthly and replacements twice a year at enormous cost to the district. If the HVAC company controlled your policy and prevented you, as a governing board, from amending it, would there be an inherent conflict with the board’s role?
Conflicts can often be waived. Boards should be asking the Trust whether it will “put it in writing” that the board’s decision-making prevails should a conflict exist between Trust guidance and a Trust policy that the board amends. Or the Board could discuss the issue and agree to the existence of the conflict. The latter would at least be an informed decision.
Based on ASBA’s review of the Trust’s model policies, it may be exceptionally difficult to get the Trust to waive their conflict. For example, some Trust policies have the following language:
Participating Trust member districts should review each policy with their school board legal counsel before adoption.
Why would it be board policy that each policy needs Trust legal oversight prior to adoption? Is this practical for all boards? Does it drive-up costs? Will it serve as a deterrent to local policy amendments?
Do not get me wrong, I think boards should be consulting legal counsel when legal advice is needed. ASBA will not charge for this additional guidance on policy, nor will it ask boards to place the requirement in their policies.
To conclude, insurance providers have vested interests in settlements, administration expenses, and pre-paid legal service expenses. At times those interests are aligned with the school district interests. Sometimes they conflict.
Boards are advised to ask questions of their service providers and make informed decisions for their district’s local interests. We hope this inquiry will result in continuing to utilize ASBA policy services as your model policy provider.
ASBA names Frankie DalMolin as Advocate of the Year
Globe Unified School District Board Member Frankie DalMolin was honored as ASBA Advocate of the Year at Advocacy Day at the Capitol on Monday, Feb. 20, 2023. The Advocate of the Year Award was developed to recognize individuals who go above and beyond in advocating for K-12 public education students. ASBA typically presents this award to a member who shows exemplary dedication to advocating on behalf of public schools.
During a panel discussion at Advocacy Day, students from Page and Baboquivari USD, Tempe ESD, and Tolleson Union High school districts shared their positive experiences at school, what they need most and what they would like to see school board members, education advocates and Legislators focus on.
Apply now for ASBA Board Support Specialist
ASBA is seeking a Board Support Specialist to contribute to ASBA’s mission of cultivating excellence in locally governed school districts. The specialist will work in a cross-functional environment with other members of ASBA’s mission-driven professional staff and contribute to the success of the association and its member boards through:
- Locally tailored, on-site individualized board training, facilitation and strategic planning.
- Consultation on governance and leadership issues.
- Planning content and implementing and delivering programming for ASBA workshops, conferences, events, webinars and other group training events.
- Development and growth of ASBA’s governance and leadership tools, resources and communications that support school boards/leadership teams in their work.
- Supporting as appropriate the association’s strategic goals on leadership development, advocacy and organizational equity.
Interested applicants should submit a letter of introduction with a current resume to Tracey Benson, ASBA Associate Executive Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org . Please include position and title in the subject line. Review of resumes will begin immediately and continue through March 17, 2023. Three professional references will be requested of all candidates who interview for the position. Learn more and apply
ASBA Black Alliance sponsors book giveaway to Eloy, Wilson and Balsz school districts
The ASBA Black Alliance sponsored a book giveaway earlier this month. The Alliance selected Wilson, Balsz and Eloy Elementary School Districts as special recipients of free books in celebration of Black History Month to distribute in their districts. The book, “Queen Leilani” was written by Doc Ivory, a high school teacher in the Tolleson Union High School District, who donated the classroom sets to the Black Alliance. Each district received a collection of two classroom sets to present to teachers and students.
Predicting the aggregate expenditure limit for next year
What does the forecast for the aggregate expenditure limit look like for next school year?
The aggregate expenditure limit will continue to be an issue for school districts even if the Legislature doesn’t put a single additional dollar into school funding this year, said Chris Kotterman, ASBA director of Governmental Relations.
“For the first time in many years, K-12 funding increases over the past five years have exceeded inflation every year. In addition, sales tax collections dedicated for teacher pay now count against the limit. These two things caused us to finally catch back up to the limit after many years of not even coming close,” Kotterman said.
Using the 0.3% increase in student count for school districts this school year and an estimated 7% inflation in calendar year 2022, Arizona Association of School Business Officials Governmental Relations Director Dr. Chuck Essigs, says he calculates the AEL for next school year would be $6,869,545,627, which would be $467,210,261 more than the AEL this school year of $6,402,335,366.
Since we were over the aggregate expenditure limit by $1.3 billion this school year, even with no increase in school district budgets for next year, we would be over the AEL for next year by over $900,000 million and with scheduled funding increases school districts will be well over the limit for next year. The Economic Estimates Commission is required to calculate and publish the AEL for next year prior to May 1, 2023.
“The question now that we are bumping up against the limit is whether the AEL represents a funding level that is adequate to serve the needs of students across the state. I think it’s safe to say that parents, students, teachers, and staff would agree that it’s not.,” Kotterman said.
“Spending above the AEL means that you’re finally spending above the inflation-adjusted level of 1980. It doesn’t mean that you’ve achieved fully-funded schools. And too many folks seem to think that’s what it means,” Kotterman said.
It’s time for your students to apply for ASBA scholarships
Arizona high school seniors who attend classes in an ASBA member district are invited to apply now for ASBA scholarships. The deadline for students to apply for all three scholarships is 5 p.m. Monday, April 3, 2023.
The Jack Peterson Scholarship is awarded annually to at least one Arizona high school senior who plans to pursue education as their major course of study at the college/university level. Amounts of the awards vary from year to year and are based on annual earnings from the scholarship endowment. Scholarship amounts typically range from $1,000 to $1,500. The scholarship was established in honor of ASBA Executive Director Jack Peterson, who served the association from 1991 to 1998.
The Panfilo H. Contreras Honorary Scholarship was awarded for the first time in 2013 by ASBA’s Hispanic-Native American Indian Caucus. Hispanic and Native American Indian students are eligible to apply for this scholarship to support their attendance at an accredited post-secondary institution. Last year’s scholarships were $1,000 each.
The Georgie and Calvin Goode Student Scholarship was established by the ASBA Black Alliance in 2021 and was awarded for the first time in Spring 2022. Two scholarships of $1,250 each are available. Scholarships will be awarded to high school seniors who demonstrate an exceptional record of academic growth and a commitment to service to others. Applicants must be a currently enrolled senior in an ASBA member district, Black or of African descent and planning to further their education at an accredited postsecondary institution. Find links to the online applications here.
Be a part of Town Hall: Public Education in Rural Arizona!
Register now to be a part of the free, interactive Town Hall: Public Education in Rural Arizona hosted by the ASBA Rural Alliance on Thursday, March 30, 2023 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Zoom. This Town Hall brings Arizona’s rural and remote school board members and superintendents together to identify and prioritize the needs of rural schools and the actions necessary to address them.
About 65% of Arizona school districts are in rural and/or remote areas of the state. Their distance from urban centers and each another, as well as the distance their students must travel to attend school present unique challenges to providing an exceptional educational environment in which every student has the opportunity to thrive.
The ASBA Rural Alliance invites and encourages you to be a part of this advocacy-centric effort as we come together to identify the issues that unite us. We ARE stronger together. Link to register before March 15 and complete the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/3G8GZKC and you’ll receive preparation materials prior to the Town Hall.
Did you miss the Wednesday Webinar: Understanding employee compensation and benefits?
View recording now
As an exclusive benefit of ASBA membership, members can register to attend the Wednesday Webinars live or view the recording at their own leisure. Learn from key experts and receive continuing education units for participating in and watching webinars.
Did you know that salaries and benefits account for about 80 percent of a school district’s M&O budget? View the recording now. Enter your information and receive the recording by email.
Learn more about the various funding streams that contribute to staff compensation and the role competitive benefits can play in your district’s recruitment and retention strategy. View the webinar archive, Wednesday Webinar: Understanding Employee Compensation and Benefits.
If you can’t attend the webinar live, receive a recording directly to your email by registering for the event in advance. There is no cost to register for this webinar. We encourage advance registration.
ASBA Events and Webinars
Upcoming ASBA Events
March 30, 2023 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Zoom
New Board Member Orientation Part Two (Virtual)
March 31, 2023
Summer Leadership Institute
June 8 – 10, 2023 Save the Date
In-Person New Board Member Orientation Part Two
June 8, 2023 Save the Date
View all ASBA events on the ASBA website.
Upcoming ASBA Webinars
March 22, 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
April 26, 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
May 10, 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
You can find all Wednesday webinars on the ASBA webpage.
Can’t view the webinar live? No problem. Go ahead and register and you will receive the recording automatically by email so you can view it later. There is no cost to register for these webinars. We encourage advance registration.