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One billion: Disparity in federal funding for schools?

Superintendents believe funding formula is outdated
Funding Formula for Schools
Posted at 2:49 AM, Feb 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-02 17:08:10-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The pandemic hit school budgets hard and the latest round of federal funds is helping them weather the financial storm.

But there's concern about how the billion dollars are being distributed and it's impact on certain districts.

The distribution swing for districts is dramatic.

TUSD is getting $76 million, which is the highest in the state. That's nearly 17 hundred per student.

While Tanque Verde is receiving the lowest in Southern Arizona -- $183,000 or 84 dollars per student.

Pima County Superintendent Dustin Williams says he's concerned.

"How did we get the disparity? Why is it so low and so high?" questions Williams, "I understand there are Title 1 and enrollment variable, but it can't be that drastic and that spread apart."

Williams said the pandemic did not discriminate -- it's the one part that's unified.

"So even an area like Tanque Verde, they're going to have the same hardships when it comes to pandemic C19 issues," he said.

The Tanque Verde Superintendent said he's still in the hole $700,000.

"So we're not able to buy anything extra. We're just trying to get back to ground zero," said Scott Hagerman.

Both superintendents are questioning the discrepancy in funding between charter schools and districts.

It comes in what's called a small school adjustment, meaning charter schools are individual schools so they get individual payments from the federal government while districts get it in one lump sum.

"So a charter school company might have several charter schools getting several payments, where a district school will only get one payment," said Williams.

Cares Act Funding for Schools

Distribution records show Basis, which has about two dozen schools, is receiving a total of about $7 million.

Several Sonoran Science Academy total about 2 and a half million and Legacy schools are getting nearly 10 million.

Williams said the funding model needs to change before the next round of Cares Act funds for schools.

"For far too long, we have not re-evaluated this formula. It's been old. It's outdated. It needs to be revisited so we can stop having a clash between charter and district. Just look at this thing in an equitable manner for everybody."

Williams said a change in the funding formula requires a change in state law, but t's too late for this legislative session.

So he's hoping the state superintendent, Kathy Hoffman, can reach out to the feds for help in resolving the disparity issue.