TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - As some students continue their studies from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said schools are projected to lose $500 million in formula funding.
That’s because the state funds distanced learning 5 percent less than it does in-person instruction. Though the state implemented the Enrollment Stability Grant to help solve that problem, in her 2021 State of Education address Hoffman said it’s fallen short by about $247 million.
With another federal relief package on the way, Hoffman said she expects it to help support the state’s public schools struggling through the pandemic. However, that’s only one-time funding for pandemic-related expenses.
Hoffman is instead calling on the state to step up and give more to Arizona’s public schools as some probably won’t be able to extend federal funding to cover gaps in their budgets.
“Without predictable, on-going state funding, many public schools, particularly small, rural schools will not be able to sustain their operations and provide a full range of services to students and families in their communities. When the state sits on a billion-dollar rainy day fund and projects a two-billion-dollar surplus, there is no excuse to not fully fund every school,” Hoffman said. “There has never been a more urgent time to tap into our safety net and provide for Arizonans. Anyone who thinks it’s not raining in Arizona right now needs to check their privilege.”
To help identify schools most impacted by the pandemic, in partnership with the governor’s office, the education department plans to launch “Acceleration Academies” This project will use public health data and socio-economic indicators to determine what schools need the most help, Hoffman said.
The department also pledged $1 million in federal funding to the state’s Office of Indian Education, which serves the state’s federally-recognized tribal nations.
With CARES Act funding, Hoffman said the department was able to invest in training courses for more than 7,700 teachers from across the state through Arizona State University. Now, in conjunction with the Arizona Department of Health Services, the education department will offer free, peer-to-peer support to all teachers and administrators.
Hoffman also called on state senators to approve a pre-kindergarten program funding measure that passed in the state House and other long-term funding options that would impact schools.
“That is why I am more concerned than ever before that we provide our schools with equitable, sustainable funding,” she said. “Our schools can be the backbone of our state’s recovery from this virus. In fact, they must be.”
To read Hoffman’s full address, click here.