A miscalculation by the Arizona Department of Education lead to millions in misallocation. Now the state agency says it is fixing the funding fiasco.
The state and U.S. Departments of Education announced on Wednesday that any schools that received extra money would not have to pay it back. While the schools who lost out on federal funds they were supposed to receive will receive the delayed make-up funds over the next few years.
Math is important. It is a lesson taught at every Arizona school, but one of the state departments had to learn the hard way.
"There are some very complex calculations that are involved when we are allocating money out to our schools," said Charles Tack, Associate Superintendent for Policy Development and Government Relations with the Arizona Department of Education.
A state audit of the education department found that from 2013 to 2017 important funding calculations were not accurate.
"There were improper procedures in place," said Tack.
Hundreds of schools were impacted across the state.
"It was right around $30 million," said Tack.
$31 million of federal grant money for low-income and special education students, specifically Title I and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funds.
"If they didn’t receive enough, it was those kids that were being impacted," said Tack.
"When you start talking about millions of dollars over a couple of years, that’s a big problem," said James Cannavino.
Cannavino moved to Arizona a few years ago but thinks people should be held responsible.
"You can’t have just a little slap on the wrist for such a little auditing mistake," he said.
The Department of Education says the agency is fixing their mistake.
"We are going to be making schools whole," said Tack. "We are also not going to be penalizing any schools that received over allocation."
The misallocation mistake is being covered by the department's budget, not extra taxpayer money. The state said they are looking at internal cuts, moving money around within the budget and using funds from schools that closed or returned grant money.
It is unclear exactly how the lack of funding in some districts impacted their most vulnerable students, but thousands of kids lost out on millions of dollars.
"We want them to know that moving forward it’s going to be right, and it is not going to happen again," said Tack.
Here are the Arizona school districts with the top 10 biggest discrepancies in funds:
Tucson Unified School District: - $2,572,242
Mesa Unified School District: - $2,501,714
Phoenix Union High School District: - $2,471,620
Cartwright Elementary District: - $1,614,651
Sunnyside Unified District: - $1,580,633
Washington Elementary School District: - $1,343,435
Alhambra Elementary District: - $1,333,224
Phoenix Elementary District: - $1,088,168
Dysart Unified District: - $1,060,313
Glendale Elementary District: - $1,023,223
To read the full agreement between the state and U.S. Department of Education, click here.