The Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting has looked at four years of data on school funding and found that although the Arizona Department of Education had been put on alert in March 2015 that federal funds were being distributed wrongfully, it didn’t rectify the situation till early 2017.
In all, the total amount of misplaced funds is a mind-blowing $62 million for the state.
The biggest part of those misallocations resulted in schools receiving too much money, some $47 million of them.
The Department of Education is in the midst of negotiating a plan with the US government to rectify the wrongs, and would therefore like to ask all school districts that were overpaid between 2014 and 2017 to start beginning repaying those amounts as from 2019.
Whether this is feasible remains to be seen.
Furthermore, Mr Erik Francis, who is currently employed as an education consultant advising Arizona schools but used to work in the Department of Education believes that the students will suffer as a result. He claims: “Why do schools need to suffer, to experience cuts, because of an error the Department of Education made?”
The Arizona Department of Education does claim to be looking at multiple remedies to rectify the problem.
According to their spokesman, Mr Stefan Swiat, cutting back on payments to over-allocated schools in order to gain back the $47 million that was wrongly spent indeed remains on the table as a viable option: “That is a worst case — not an agreed-upon plan of action.”
The problem initially was at first seen during a March 2015 routine examination of the program by the state Auditor General Office.
According to Mr Swiat, the failure of the department to spot and fix the problem earlier is due to the replacement of superintendent John Huppenthal by Ms Diane Douglas. It was during this transition period, which happened in the summer of 2017, that the error should have already been spotted.