Arizona schools inundated with federal virus money, some inundated
PHOENIX – Arizona K-12 Schools have received nearly $ 4.3 billion through several federal coronavirus relief programs, with virtually all public charter schools or traditional districts receiving additional money for them. help endure closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and help students make up for lost class time.
But the money was not evenly distributed, and schools that serve a high proportion of low-income students received much more and the ability to help lower-performing students and even their families to make big gains, though. the money is spent correctly.
As of March 2020, the federal government has provided $ 190 billion in pandemic assistance to schools, an amount that is more than four times what the U.S. Department of Education spends on K-12 schools over the course of ‘a typical year. The Associated Press, based on data published or provided by states and the federal government, has calculated how much money has been awarded to nearly every school district in the country.
The PA has tracked more than $ 145 billion sent to states to be distributed among schools since last year, including general pandemic relief that some states have shared with their schools.
Not all the money has been distributed, but the Associated Press has collected data on $ 3.57 billion that has so far been sent to schools in Arizona, and some schools have been awarded a budget of ‘half a year or more in virus relief funds. The biggest prize pool came from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Act plan, which included $ 2.7 billion for Arizona schools.
Many Arizona public and charter schools that don’t have a lot of low-income students have received around $ 500 per student. Meanwhile, public schools with a high percentage of students eligible for free or discounted federally funded lunches received much more, in some cases a huge amount.
Two prime examples are the Vail School District in southeast Tucson and the Sunnyside Unified School District in Tucson.
The two districts educate a similar number of students in over 20 elementary, middle and high schools each, Vail 13,792 and Sunnyside about 15,600.
But Vail received just $ 558 per student, or $ 7.7 million, to help him recover from the financial and educational losses due to the pandemic, mainly because less than 30% of his students were classified as low income. Its annual budget is approximately $ 110 million.
Sunnyside, meanwhile, raised $ 82.5 million in federal relief funds, or about two-thirds of its annual district budget of $ 130 million. This resulted in $ 5,291 per student.
Both districts switched to distance learning last year as the coronavirus hit the state. The last school year has been a mixture of distance, hybrid and face-to-face learning. This fall, most students returned to face-to-face teaching.
They both plan to add more school counselors and have spent money on cleaning and personal protective equipment.
And both suffered a financial blow from the pandemic, when Governor Doug Ducey and the Legislature provided just 95% of regular funding for distance learning.
Despite Ducey’s assurances that the districts would be made whole, the federal virus payments and federally funded grants the governor handed out were insufficient for Vail and other districts that are not classified as low income. Vail District spokesperson Darcy Mentone said. The district obtained only 2% of the 5% expected to reach full funding.
This required the district to provide additional staff and other resources, “and we were struggling financially to provide all of that,” Mentone said.
Enter Ducey, who last week announced $ 163 million for schools that received less than $ 1,800 per student, provided they don’t require students to wear face masks or get vaccinated. Vail doesn’t do either, so he’s in the line to get an additional $ 12.2 million in federal funds controlled by Ducey.
Mentone said her district was among those who have called on the legislature to ensure that schools that don’t get Title I money get more money.
“We totally agree… that students experiencing poverty need additional resources,” Mentone said. “But that doesn’t mean that students who aren’t in poverty don’t need anything.
Vail has yet to finalize plans on how to spend that extra money, but her directors want at least some of it to be spent on extra staff, Mentone said.
Sunnyside’s payments, on the other hand, put him in a massively positive cash position and he can do what Biden asked them to do: think of money as a way to transform himself.
Superintendent Steve Holmes said he believed this was exactly what the public expected and that it would be a huge missed opportunity if he didn’t keep his promises. He knows that the money is needed to help students recoup the learning losses of the past 18 months, but also that some can be used to make big gains, if used correctly.
“I’m afraid sometimes people see a big influx of money, and it’s like stepping out of the ditch, rather than thinking innovatively about how you can actually make a difference,” Holmes said. “I really believe we are approaching it from a transformational perspective.”
He said the question is how to balance “transformation with catching up”.
“If we’re just going to catch up with the past, I think it’s going to look bad to the general public that we haven’t done anything with these dollars worth doing.
The district spends the money on new technology such as student laptops and up-to-date classroom projectors, summer school, after school and on weekends, new arts instructors and music, school counselors, social workers and family resources. It also pushed money towards safety, like special air filters that remove viruses.
He plans to spend the additional $ 82 million over three years and Holmes has said he hopes to retain the additional staff.
Some schools have obtained an even bigger windfall thanks to the federal relief programs adopted under Biden and former President Donald Trump. Schools in the Navajo Nation generally came out on top.
The biggest winner of all was the Cedar Unified School District of the Navajo Nation. The district operates the Jeditto School in the community of Keams Canyon, approximately 200 kilometers northeast of Flagstaff.
With only 125 students and an annual budget of $ 2 million, the district received $ 11 million, or more than $ 90,000 per student. In a brief telephone interview, Superintendent Corrina Begay said the district purchased two four-wheel drive school buses, but then said she was busy and arranged a follow-up call for the next day. She did not respond to multiple follow-up calls, messages or emails.
Elsewhere on the sprawling reserve, the Red Mesa Unified School District, with five schools and approximately 430 students, received more than its annual budget in federal money. The district budget is approximately $ 8.2 million and it has received $ 12.6 million, or over $ 29,000 per student.
Superintendent Amy Perez Fuller, who just joined the district this summer, said some of the money has already been allocated to renovating decades-old schools. All receive new paint and repaired air conditioning and plumbing.
The district also buys computers, new textbooks and Chromebooks for the lower grades. But the decisions on how to spend much of the money haven’t been made.
“I was happy to find out we had all of this funding, but the first thing I did was stop the spending,” Fuller said. “Because I thought, ‘Wait a minute.’ “
She said the district will buy the things we need.
“Otherwise, we’ll let it continue until next year until we know where we are,” Fuller said. “I am not neglecting to spend public money, or my own money for that matter.”