Arizona’s district and charter schools have $266 million less in state funding because distance learners are funded less than in-person students, the Arizona Department of Education said in its Fiscal Year 2021 Distance Learning Adjustments to the Base Support Level report released a day before most schools closed for winter break.
Reduced funding for distance learning means many Arizona school districts have thousands to millions less in state funding than they budgeted for, putting them in a difficult financial situation, said Chuck Essigs, director of governmental relations for Arizona Association of School Business Officials.
The state could have avoided this situation by funding in-person and distance learning at the same rate, Essigs said.
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The argument for lower funding for Arizona Online Instruction “is that it costs less to provide those programs, because you don’t have to provide brick and mortar space for those students, you don’t have to provide any outside services and one teacher can serve a fairly large number of students,” Essigs said.
But unlike Arizona Online Instruction students, schools must still have space, enough teachers, and provide other services for distance learning students, because they will be back on campus when COVID-19 health metrics improve, Essigs said.