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Education Leaders: Surplus should be pumped back into schools

Part of $2 billion surplus comes from K-12 enrollment loss
Distance Learning Funding in Arizona
Posted at 11:31 PM, Feb 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-10 01:31:09-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN9)  — Arizona senate lawmakers are now tackling distance learning funding during the pandemic.

Education leaders tell KGUN9 this has a direct impact on student learning because schools need every dollar they can get to maintain safety and academics standards.

And they're keeping a sharp eye on the state's projected 2-billion dollar surplus.

Lots of students have been distance learning because of the pandemic and schools are losing thousands to millions of dollars because of it.

By law, the state funds remote learning at 5% less than in-person learning.

Statewide, Arizona Superintendent Kathy Hoffman recently announced the loss is projected to be half a billion dollars.

ARIZONA SB 1433

A new bill, SB 1433, proposes full funding, including retroactively.

"We still want them funded at a 100 percent. The costs do not go down, in fact, they actually sometimes increase when they have to spend on technology needs and so forth," said Pima County superintendent Dustin Williams.

SB 1433 just passed the Senate Appropriations committee.

Where could the funding come from to ensure all schools receive full funding?

Some district leaders are now keeping tabs on the state's projected surplus for FY22.

A Finance Advisory Committee document shows the surplus at $1.6 to 2 billion dollars, in part, due to lower K-12 school enrollment -- meaning schools lose money when the student count drops.

Arizona Surplus FY22

Williams and other education leaders think the money should be pumped back into schools.

"I think if those educational dollars come from education, then they absolutely need to go right back into the education pot," said Williams.

Remember, the projected loss is half a billion dollars, but Williams told KGUN9 the Governor announced the state would give around $350 million dollars to schools.

"He wants to do that in grant formula, but grants are tough for schools to do. We would rather see that comes into a base formula so that wealth can be spread out to all the schools," he said.

We'll keep you updated on HB 1433 and other education bills throughout this legislative session.