AZ Parent: 'We need help, we need to get our kids whole'

Parent perspective on funding formula disparities in Arizona
Funding Formula for Schools
Posted at 2:31 PM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 21:25:35-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN9) — A Vail district family has been navigating the ever-changing learning modes during this pandemic -- from remote to in-person and everything in-between.

"Our teachers in our district have gone through 5 different modes of learning. So that's not something that they've been trained to do," said MaRico Tippett.

Tippett has three children -- a senior, a sophomore, and 6th grader.

The youngest is thriving, but the other two have significant learning gaps this school year. The senior started with a 4.0 GPA.

"She has assignments that aren't done, aren't completed, and her motivation to get them done is like not there and that is not typical of her even with senioritis," he said.

The sophomore is a student athlete. Sports has been a big motivator for good grades, but his drive to complete assignments just dropped.

"I mean literally I'm looking at his school work and he's got a hundred -- a hundred -- and then zeros," explained Tippett, "And you have to look at that and say, what happened, you know, why was there the cliff?"

A lot of parents could be asking that same question.

An Education Week survey reported in January 2021 on Teacher and Student Morale nationwide shows the pandemic has made half of the middle and high school students less motivated.

32 percent -- a lot less.
18 percent -- a little less.

KGUN9 has reported an alarming rise in failing grades this school year and superintendents are now figuring out the best ways to use the second round of federal funding, $1 billion total, to fill the growing learning gaps.

The funding formula favors low-income Title 1 districts and schools, according to the Arizona Department of Education. In Vail, nearly 30 percent of students are low-income.

It's receiving nearly $1.8 million. That's far lower than other Southern Arizona districts and charter school companies with about the same or far fewer students.

Vail tells KGUN9 the district has no money for remediation and can't offer free summer school this year.

"Every child has been affected in every household," said Tippett.

He explains COVID did not discriminate.

"These aren't normal situations. Why are we using formulas from the past. We need to be more creative," said Tippett, "We need to be more imaginative and we really need to think about the problem that we're dealing with now. We need help and we need to get our kids whole."

Pima County Superintendent Dustin Williams agrees the formula needs revamping before the next round of Cares Act funds.

"We had a little disparity here. We need to help some of these other districts in this area that are fighting for their lives during this hard pandemic," he said.

The ADE has used millions in discretionary funds to get funds to non-title 1 schools.

KGUN9 reached out to the Arizona Department of Education on the funding formula and discrepancy concerns.

A spokesperson provided this statement:

"Federal COVID relief and recovery dollars are appropriated only for Title I LEA's under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) portion of federal legislation. However, ADE's goal has been to provide every public, non-profit LEA with COVID with a baseline of relief funding no matter their Title status. To meet that goal, ADE leveraged its 10% set-aside of ESSER funding for this purpose. From a baseline amount, a further funding allocation considered poverty data, LEA size, and rural location. ADE has continually advocated for full state funding to support all schools and students with distance learning and budget stability this academic year. ADE will continue to advocate for additional federal and state funding needed to support on-going costs associated with COVID recovery and disruption to learning."

KGUN9 will continue to follow the developments of this funding issue.