Gov. Jan Brewer will deliver her final State of the State address this afternoon. The speech marks the beginning of the legislative session, and also serves as the governor's marching orders for state lawmakers.
Education is expected to be a top priority for Brewer, as she lays out plans for her final legislative session while in office.
Janice Palmer with the Arizona School Boards Association said she expects the governor to promote the idea of tying school funding to school success.
"She has really been pushing for the last year and a half student success funding. A way to incentivize schools and kids who have been achieving very well with additional resources," Palmer said. "And my understanding is she is going to be pushing for a 35 million dollar package to do just that. So that kids that do well on what we have now, AIMS, or the new assessment that comes on board with the Common Core state standards that there would be additional money allocated for students who are successful."
Legislators expect the governor to make education a major part of her agenda.
Tucson Democratic state Sen. David Bradley said the way Brewer frames her education plans could determine how smoothly the 2014 legislative session goes.
"She wants to make education her swan song," Bradley said. "And is she going to draw a line in the sand and say I want this and you’re not going home until I get it like she did with Medicaid last year, or is she going to be more in a compromise mode because she has other ambitions."
Tucson Republican state Rep. Ethan Orr said he hopes the funding in the budget carries beyond the K-12 classrooms.
"The universities have asked for $107 million in additions funding," he said. "I’ve been working very hard behind the scenes to line up the vote for a new veterinary school at the University of Arizona. And then also the community colleges have asked for an additional $55 million in terms of soft capital and technical training."
Implementation of the Common Core education standards was a significant topic during last year's session.
Palmer said she doesn't see that problem returning this year, but she expects Common Core will still be talked about by state lawmakers.
"We now have to fund the assessment, we have to make sure kids are being assessed on the standards they are taught," she said. "And there needs to be resources allocated there."
CPS Un-Investigated Child Abuse Reports
Late in 2013, it was revealed that about 6,500 of child abuse cases weren't investigated by Arizona's Child Protective Services. A special team is looking at the issue, and legislation to make CPS its own agency and revamp operations is expected during this legislative session.
Bradley said that when it comes to solving the problems at the child welfare agency, state lawmakers need to be thoughtful not reactionary.
"I agree with the Senate President in not throwing money at it at this time, because we don’t have a good plan, but when we do have a plan then that is going to cost some money because we short changed the system for so long," he said.
Orr is also hopeful about the process.
"This is a year’s long process and I think the problem with CPS has been we’ve always tried to fix it in one legislative session," he said. "After meeting with a number of people working at CPS I’ve found the problem truly is systemic."
Orr said the Legislature needs to see performance measures for the agency before major changes are made.
This year's session is also operating under the shadow of the ballot box.
Half of the state Senate and the full House are up for re-election, and the more time lawmakers spend at the Capitol, the less time they are out on the campaign trail. Many of them anticipate a session shorter than last year's, which ran into June.