Arizona Governor Doug Ducey announces funding mechanism for Arizona public schools

PHOENIX — Governor Doug Ducey will resolve a lingering school funding issue by executive order, allowing schools to adopt hybrid and distance learning models without losing millions in state funding, according to the governor’s spokesman.

The governor will use an additional $270 million in funding from the federal CARES Act, to pay for safety protocols, technology and remedial courses for students who’ve fallen behind.

That $270 million comes from the $850 million to fund education through the CARES Act, of which the governor can use $270 million at his discretion.

Wednesday afternoon, the governor sat in a closed-door meeting with Arizona Superintendent Kathy Hoffman, along with school superintendents, finalizing the plans for funding schools for in 2020-2021.

The governor’s order clears away a big worry for school districts. Under state law, full funding is tied to students being physically in class. As many schools unveil plans to provide online and hybrid learning plans, superintendents were worried they could lose millions of dollars. The governor’s order allows districts to tally enrollment regardless of whether parents choose to send their children into the classroom.

The spokesperson also said the executive order cuts the “red tape,” and answers a call to action from educators, who’ve contacted the governor’s office with numerous calls and emails.

“They need the certainty, they need to get over this hurdle in order to be able to move forward in their planning,” said Callie Kozlak, associate superintendent of policy and government relations for the Department of Education.

“We really heard leaders loud and clear that this is a key hurdle to having the flexibility to provide hybrid learning models,” said Kozlak.

The Arizona Education Association is advocating for a special session to address funding concerns in its “New Vision for Arizona Schools” report released Wednesday. The state’s largest teacher membership group says the governor’s plan is federal aid and more funding support needs to come from the state.

“The reopening of the state can’t happen without safe and healthy schools and the only way that can happen is with a new stream of money,” said Marisol Garcia, vice president of Arizona Education Association.