Up to 62 percent of Arizona’s public-school districts and charters have no written plan for maintaining current operations once relief monies run out next September.
Most districts’ lack of preparedness was revealed in an auditor general special report issued last week. 55 percent of those districts and charters revealed the absence of a plan in an auditor general report, with another seven percent failing to respond to the auditor general’s request for a written plan.
The COVID-19 relief funds presented an overall boon to public school districts and charters: from 2020 onward, district fund balances increased by 34 percent ($1.13 billion) and charter fund balances increased by 115 percent ($310 million).
However, the true amount of funding spent or remaining remains a mystery for over one-third of the schools. 213 districts and charters (36 percent) reported relief monies contradicting their reported fund balance.
The auditor general specifically named Gilbert Unified School District (GUSD) and Portable Practice Education Preparation (PPEP) for reporting to have spent all $41.5 million and $4.8 million of their relief funds, respectively. However, the auditor general found that GUSD had used $30.4 million for continuing costs, $24.7 million for salaries and benefits, and a fund balance increase. The auditor general also found that PPEP had only reported $2 million spent for employment retention salaries and benefits with student count declines, and a fund balance increase.