Arizona schools could lose funding for switching to remote learning

Aug 18, 2021, 4:45 AM
A student colors in a classroom at Tussahaw Elementary school on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, in McDono...

A student colors in a classroom at Tussahaw Elementary school on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, in McDonough, Ga. Schools have begun reopening in the U.S. with most states leaving it up to local schools to decide whether to require masks. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

PHOENIX — Arizona public schools that switch back to online learning as a way to stop the spread of COVID-19 could lose out in state funding.

Christ Kotterman, director of government relations for the Arizona School Boards Association, explained that’s because of the way the state’s funding formula for K-12 public schools is set up.

“Any time a school district goes online, for the most part, they’re going to experience a reduction in funding,” he said.

Schools that want to offer online instruction must first get authorization by the Arizona State Board of Education. They’ll receive 95% of state’s base funding level per full-time online student and 85% for each student who does online learning part-time.

Kotterman explained that means a school could lose funding for the part of the year the student did online learning. He added the reasoning is “it costs less to administer an online program because there’s no brick and mortar.

“But that’s not the case now,” he said. “Costs are increasing.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Doug Ducey is encouraging schools to stay open. He announced on Tuesday that $163 million from the American Rescue Plan will be distributed among district and charter schools that follow Arizona law and remain open for in-person instruction.

Schools that abide by Ducey’s stipulations could get up to $1,800 in additional funding per student this academic year.

But Kotterman said if COVID-19 cases continue to rise in schools, closing down and switching back to online instruction may be the best temporary solution. As of Tuesday evening, there were 74 schools in Maricopa County with active outbreaks of COVID-19.

“If we can’t get a handle of this, one of the only tools available to district is going online at least for a period of time,” he said.

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Arizona schools could lose funding for switching to remote learning