Arizona education chief says federal COVID funds ‘essential’ for safe schools

Oct 8, 2021, 11:01 AM | Updated: 11:32 am

(Photo by Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)...

(Photo by Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

(Photo by Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Arizona has now received more than $4 billion in federal COVID-19 recovery funds for education, which Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said has been “incredibly critical” for schools to safely reopen because “the state has fallen short” in that regard.

Arizona just received another $862 million from the federal government, the final slice of its American Rescue Plan school funding, after the state’s plan for using the money was approved, the U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday.

The department said in a press release it will “closely review and monitor” how Arizona spends the money after the Biden administration on Tuesday told Gov. Doug Ducey to stop using previous federal COVID aid for grants to schools without face mask mandates.

In all, Arizona received more than $2.5 billion in three disbursals this year to support K-12 schools as part of the American Rescue Plan after around $1.5 billion from last year’s COVID relief packages.

“This funding is incredibly critical,” Hoffman told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “It’s been essential for our schools to be able to reopen safely and provide that in-person instruction that we know is so important right now.”

Hoffman said schools have been innovative in how they’ve been using the funds to help students get back on track after the disruption of the pandemic.

“It’s been really exciting to see what our schools have been able to implement with these federal funds, and especially because I would say that the state has fallen short in making sure that our schools have everything they need to support students in this way,” she said.

As of Thursday, the U.S. Department of Education had approved 39 state plans for final disbursements from the American Rescue Plan, which allocated $130 billion for schools nationwide.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino contributed to this report.

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Arizona education chief says federal COVID funds ‘essential’ for safe schools