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Financial windfall for Arizona public schools

$1B split between districts and charter schools
Posted at 4:26 PM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 11:26:09-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A financial windfall is coming for some Arizona public schools to help students who are struggling during the pandemic.

The federal government is releasing millions of dollars for education relief and recovery efforts, but not all districts are happy about the amount they're getting.

Tucson Unified School District is receiving more than $76 million.

That's about $26 million more than what they were expecting.

"This is great news. I'm happy," said TUSD Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo.

Dr. Trujillo said the money will help boost academic support and safety measures.

"Yes we're going to use it for face shields and masks and plexiglass and technology and instructional software," Dr. Trujillo said. "And now you get to use it for academic recovery and that previously that was not allowed int the first round of the Cares Act."

In comparison to TUSD's $76 million, Sunnyside USD is getting $23 million.

And the Tanque Verde school district is getting $183,000.

Those vastly different numbers coming from the funding formula that favors Title one schools and districts. Those schools serve a high percentage of students from low-income families.

Both Tucson Unified and Sunnyside are title one districts. Tanque Verde is not.

The lower dollar amount for his district is not sitting well with Tanque Verde Superintendent Scott Hagerman.

He said his district is still dealing with a $700,000 deficit because of the pandemic.

"It's disappointing because we're just trying to catch up," Hagerman said. "And we haven't lost students. We're open in hybrid right now. There's additional things we need to do but we can't get back to zero."

He sent a letter to state superintendent Kathy Hoffman expressing his concern over the funding formula. He said the formula needs to be more equitable.

"I don't want to discount the additional issues the other districts have. If you're in a very complex school you definitely need more money to address those problems but there's got to be a floor to that too," Hagerman said. "A basic adequate amount for all students and I just don't feel like the funding system has a floor to ensure all kids have support."