ARIZONA NEWS

Horne rebuts Gov. Katie Hobbs’ accusation that he’s holding Arizona school funding money hostage

Sep 8, 2023, 4:32 PM | Updated: 4:38 pm

COVID-19 education relief funds...

(Arizona Governor's Office Photo, Tom Horne Photo)

(Arizona Governor's Office Photo, Tom Horne Photo)

PHOENIX — Gov. Katie Hobbs and Superintendent of Public Education Tom Horne made their disagreements over how to allocate COVID-19 education relief funds to Arizona schools public on Friday afternoon.

Specifically, they sniped over Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools, or EANS, a government program designed to help Arizona students dealing with pandemic-driven learning loss.

The federal government set aside $2.7 billion to help Arizona educators through the program. Around 90% of those funds went to districts around the state, leaving around $130 million for Horne’s Department of Education.

“That $130 million was for a very specific purpose and that is to make up for learning loss,” Horne, a Republican, said. “My predecessor sent that out to various vendors and we wanted to be sure it was working because the program ends in Sept. 2024 so there’s only a year left.”

That predecessor, Kathy Hoffman, had awarded millions of dollars to Arizona education programs. However, Horne announced he would cancel contracts with organizations that couldn’t prove their own success.

Horne also announced he would use $40 million in federal funding on a tutoring program in a Tuesday press conference.

Three days later, Hobbs, a Democrat, accused Horne of playing political games.

What Hobbs has to say about COVID-19 education relief funds

Hobbs said on Friday Horne’s team hadn’t transferred the remaining EANS funds — even though federal law obligates them to do so.

“For months, Superintendent Horne has played political games while my administration has fought to deliver millions of dollars of funding to Arizona schools,” Hobbs said in a statement.

These funds, which come from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, have been held back for months, Hobbs said.

“By not following federal law, Horne is sending a clear message that he believes his politics are more important than giving every Arizona student the education they need to thrive,” she said.

She said Horne’s administration refused to cooperate with her administration to get the disbursement off the ground.

“If funds are not obligated by September 30, 2023, Arizona schools will lose nearly $6 million that will be forfeited to the federal government,” Hobbs said.

That’s not all the money the state will lose. She said Arizona schools would lose an additional $22 million next September. Her full statement can be found here.

Horne fired off a quick response

Horne said Hobbs lied in her statement. He also accused her of trying to pass the buck to his department.

“The governor’s statement about money that should be spent in education to educate children is hypocritical,” he said. “One of her first acts in office was to take away $75 million that had been allocated for summer school to help students improve in reading and math.”

He also accused her of taking away $17 million from Project Momentum, a school improvement project he claimed was “the most effective” in helping schools improve.

“It was the Arizona Department of Education, out of the funds that are in its budget, that gave $10 million to Project Momentum because the governor’s attempt to destroy Project Momentum would’ve done terrible damage to students who in schools that need to have the benefits of school improvement,” he said.

He also promised to deliver a more detailed statement that refuted each of her claims. Hobbs had not responded to his rebuttal yet.

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Horne rebuts Gov. Katie Hobbs’ accusation that he’s holding Arizona school funding money hostage