Gov. Ducey Announces $270M Plan To Aid Arizona Schools' Reopenings
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order Wednesday allocating $270 million of education funding from a federal COVID-19 relief package to aid schools in their reopenings.
The funding plan includes:
- $200 million to increase funding for remote learning and to protect schools against budget shortfalls due to declining enrollment.
- $40 million to expand broadband in rural communities to bridge the digital divide.
- $20 million to bring in extra support for high-need schools.
- $6 million for the Arizona Teachers Academy to assist with the teacher shortage.
- $1 million in microgrants to support innovative programs to continue educating Arizona students.
- $1 million for vehicles for the Arizona School for the Deaf And Blind
- $700,000 for leadership development through Beat the Odds Leadership Academy.
- $500,000 for tutoring from Teach For America to provide tutoring to kids most in need, in schools most impacted across the state.
“This plan provides schools with the flexibility to ensure Arizona students continue to receive a quality education — whether through distance learning or in the classroom, and provides parents with options that work best for their families,” Ducey said. “It was informed and developed in close consultation with superintendents, school leaders, and the education community.”
The $200 million Enrollment Stability Grant Program is meant to offset any school district budget shortfalls due to enrollment decline. This is a big concern for districts since state funding for public schools is calculated using student enrollment counts over the first 100 days of instruction.
To be eligible for the grant, districts are required to conduct benchmark academic testing within the first six weeks of the school year. That’s a concern for Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association.
“We know what the benchmark tests are going to say. They’re going to say that the students are behind a little bit because of the fourth quarter from last year so it’s odd that that’s a requirement and a requirement so early," Thomas said.
The AEA released a report on Wednesday calling on the Arizona Legislature to pass a two-year moratorium on statewide standardized testing as well as a repeal of any funding tied to those tests.
The grant also requires districts to provide the same number of in-person learning days as they did last year. Under the executive order, districts considering keeping students home for part of the week can still qualify as long as they offer on-site learning for students who need a place to go during those days.
For more on the governor's executive order, The Show spoke to Chris Kotterman, director of governmental relations at the Arizona School Boards Association.