A myriad of laws, regulations and policies form the legal framework for education in Arizona. There are state laws that govern district, charter, private and home schools. School districts and charter holders also have policies in place to govern their schools’ operation.
Providing a quality education in Arizona is an extremely important role of state government, and several sections of the Arizona State Constitution are relevant.
ARS Title 15 governs education in Arizona. Within this Title are chapters on:
School districts are governed by a board. These boards are made up of five members who are elected by the local community for a term of four years. School board elections are part of the general election in even-numbered years. Arizona Revised Statutes Title 15, Chapter 3 outlines the powers and duties of a school board. If you’re interested, here is information on becoming a board member.
Overall, school boards create policies for the governance of schools, manage school property, manage district funds/spending, approve curriculum materials, set salaries for employees, and create the school calendar. They also hire and evaluate a district superintendent who implements the board policies, manages day to day district operations and evaluates staff.
District policies are created by the governing board, often with the guidance of the Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA), a private, non-profit, non-partisan organization that provides training, leadership and essential services to public school governing boards statewide. The ASBA is governed by a board of directors comprised of school board members from throughout the state. They are member of the National School Boards Association. School districts can elect to become members of ASBA. A standard set of policies is developed by ASBA that many districts adopt but can always alter or revise for their local needs. District policies can be found on the school district website or on the ASBA website. The ASBA maintains a repository of policies for most or all districts.
The Arizona State Board of Charter Schools grants charters and oversees the financial and educational performance of charter schools. Charters are required to enroll any student who applies, space permitting, including those with disabilities.
Charter school policies are created by the school or charter holder. These policies may be developed with the guidance of the Arizona Charter School Association and may be found on the school or charter holder's website.
Arizona statute requires that every child between the ages of six and sixteen years shall attend a school and shall be provided instruction in at least the subjects of reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science. Parents need only file a notarized affidavit of intent to homeschool, and a birth certificate. No testing is required unless the student later enters a public school.
State law allows a child who resides within the attendance area of a public school and who is homeschooled to try out for interscholastic activities on behalf of the public school in the same manner as a pupil who is enrolled in that public school.
Homeschoolers receive no financial assistance from tax dollars unless their child has an Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA).
State laws on homeschooling are summarized here.
Immunizations are required for students attending Arizona schools, including district, charter and private schools. However, exemptions are allowed for medical reasons, lab evidence of immunity and personal beliefs. Effectively, immunizations are optional in Arizona as an exemption must be made for the personal beliefs of the parents. Immunization guidelines are provided by the AZ Department of Health Services.
Arizona Department of Education requirements, processes and forms for becoming certified as a teacher or substitute are here. District school teachers are required to be certified, and some but not all charter schools require certification. Certification requires coursework or passing exams on the Arizona Constitution and on the U.S. Constitution.This news article provides a good summary of teacher certification requirements.
ARS 15-341 Section A.23 states that school district governing boards must prescribe and enforce policies that prohibit carrying a weapon on school grounds. However, the “school administrator” may grant authorization to carry a weapon on school grounds. Some argue that this means a school board already has the authority to allow teachers and staff to carry weapons. We are unaware of any who have made such an authorization or if this has been tested in court. The Baker Law Firm has also written a summary of gun carry laws on school grounds in Arizona.
Arizona statute ARS 15-511 prohibits the use of school or charter school resources to influence the outcome of elections. Resources include the expenditure of monies, accounts, credit, facilities, vehicles, postage, telecommunications, computer hardware and software, web pages, personnel, equipment, materials, buildings or any other thing of value. Employees may not use their authority or positions to influence the vote or political activities of any subordinate employee or distribute written materials to influence the outcome of an election. The attorney general or the county attorney can issue fines for violations of this statute. The Arizona Attorney General is directed by the statute to issue guidelines on interpreting the statute. That guidance, issued in 2004, can be found here, with a related legal opinion from 2015 on a similar statute.