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New Arizona schools chief launches audit to investigate state funding

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — The new head of the Arizona Department of Education has been in office for less than a month, but is already making major changes from her predecessors.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman last week launched an audit committee in order to investigate whether state funding could be more accurately and efficiently distributed.

Hoffman, in an interview with KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes on Wednesday, said she wanted to launch this audit to be held accountable to the taxpayers. The audit was also one of her campaign promises.

“We need to be accountable for making sure, as a department, as superintendent, that, with all of the millions of dollars we are entrusted with, that it is being properly allocated and it is being efficiently allocated,” Hoffman said.

“The schools and those students are relying on that allocation every day so it is important for us to do the allocation and understand what’s happening.”

Chuck Essigs with the Arizona Association of School Business Officials was picked to head the committee, which will hold its first meeting on Monday.

Essigs told Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes on Tuesday that there have been issues in the department with the way state funding was being distributed over the last few years, with some districts receiving too much money and others not receiving enough.

“We’re making sure the money that gets distributed to schools is accurate, they’re getting the right amount,” he said.

“We’re not getting into, ‘Are the dollars being spent correctly?’ We’re getting into, ‘Are they getting the dollars that all these complicated state formulas say they should be receiving?'”

Essigs said he believes these errors have stretched into multiple administrations because no one questioned the previous administrations’ methods.

“Nobody went back and looked at how you should’ve been doing it, they assumed it was being done correctly,” he said.

Essigs said officials across the state are very supportive of the move.

“I have confidence that the funds are being distributed accurately, but unless you really test, how do you know for sure?” he said.

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