Arizona Increases Funding For Rural Juvenile Detention Schools

By Mariana Dale
Published: Tuesday, May 28, 2019 - 3:36pm
Updated: Wednesday, May 29, 2019 - 9:19am

Yavapai County Juvenile Justice Center classroom
Mariana Dale/KJZZ
Students at the Yavapai County Juvenile Justice Center can work on high school credit, study for the GED and take community college classes.

Arizona’s state budget includes teacher pay raises, money to hire counselors, and, for the first time in decades, increases funding for rural juvenile detention center schools. 

The funding formula for county juvenile detention center schools in Yavapai, Yuma, Santa Cruz, Pinal, Mohave and Cochise counties hasn’t changed since 1994. 

Read More: Left Out Of Statewide Education Funding Increases, Arizona Schools In Rural Juvenile Detention Centers Seek More Money

Schools in less populous counties have closed and those that are still open can struggle to hire full-time certified teachers. 

“I’ve had to ask the the sheriff’s department to give me a certain amount of money because we just could not continue on,” said Jacqui Clay, Cochise County school superintendent. Right now, Cochise County can’t afford to hire a full-time special education teacher in its juvenile detention center school.

Marvy McNeese
Mariana Dale/KJZZ
Marvy McNeese started at the Yavapai County Juvenile Justice Center 15 years ago as a special education teacher. She's now the principal. “We celebrate small victories every day," McNeese said.

“These are children who have made mistakes and some of them are students who are special needs students," Clay said. "Our job is to make them feel significant, give them direction, motivation and purpose.”

Pinal County had to reduce classes to four days a week in its juvenile detention center before a cash infusion from the County Board of Supervisors, and the Santa Cruz detention center school is down to one staff member. 

Arizona’s 2020 budget boosts the juvenile detention schools’ annual allocation from $20,000 to $100,000 and increases per-student funding from $15 to $25 a day. 

“It’s unbelievable, literally it’s unbelievable,” said Marvy McNeese,  the principal at the school within the Yavapai County Juvenile Justice Center. “I don’t think I’ve fully processed exactly what it means.” 

McNeese said the new money, about $700,000 statewide, will allow her to offer professional development to staff and research new programs for students, almost a quarter of whom require special education.

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