Arizona State Rep. Udall Raising Concerns On COVID-19 School Funding; ADE Says Help Has Been Sent
Michelle Udall, Republican state representative and chair of the Arizona House Education Committee, sent a letter to the state superintendent of public instruction on Monday with concerns about COVID-19 relief funding for schools.
In a letter to Superintendent Kathy Hoffman, Udall said she believed the Arizona Department of Education was sitting on $85 million of federal COVID relief funding. Udall called on Hoffman and the department to release this money to prevent staff cuts like what recently happened at Gilbert Public Schools.
"As a mother with children attending public schools, as a state representative, and as the Chair of the House Education Committee, I am asking you to immediately use your discretionary funds to stabilize school districts who have received the lowest levels of per student support," Udall said.
ADE has already allocated $63 million of its $135 million in discretionary COVID funds to public schools, Hoffman said in her response to Udall's letter. Another $15 million went to education initiatives such as projects focused on student equity and achievement, educator recruitment and retention as well as safety. ADE is discussing with stakeholders on how it should spent its remaining $57 million, an ADE spokesman said.
Regardless, Hoffman said the discretionary dollars that ADE received are not enough to cover the approximately $247 million that schools need to stabilize their budgets due to enrollment declines during the pandemic.
"Ongoing, sustainable education funding is critically important not only to stabilize school budgets this year but for the long-term operational success of public schools," Hoffman said in her letter. "I urge you to work with your colleagues in the legislature to find a solution that immediately stabilizes school budgets in the short term as you work on this year's budget."
But Udall fired back in tweet saying that while the funds may not be enough to make every public school budget whole, it should enough to help schools hardest hit who have the received the least amount of COVID relief dollars.
There are simply not enough discretionary funds at ADE's disposal to make each public school budget whole. My invitation stands to schedule a meeting with me and my team to walk through these complex funding issues with you.— Kathy Hoffman (@Supt_Hoffman) April 6, 2021
If the state Legislature wants to help schools, Hoffman said it should pass legislation to fund distance learning at the same rate as in-person learning. Hoffman also urged state leaders to use rainy day funds and a projected budget surplus to close gaps in school budgets, plus oppose a bill that could gut Invest in Ed funding.
For more on what she's asking Hoffman to do, The Show spoke with Rep. Udall.