Education advocates call on Gov. Ducey and state legislators to fully fund education amid COVID-19 pandemic

Education advocates in Arizona are calling on Governor Doug Ducey and state lawmakers to act now to fully fund public schools during the ongoing and worsening COVID-19 pandemic.

In an executive order issued by Gov. Ducey in June 2020, schools that used distance learning were scheduled to receive 5% less money per student than if they kept kids in the classroom. Now, as more and more districts are closing campuses because of the latest surge in COVID-19 cases, education officials are calling on Gov. Ducey and state lawmakers to make a change.

"The formula that exists today assumes that online learning is cheaper learning, and that’s not the case today," said Chris Kotterman with the Arizona School Boards Association. "The expenses don’t go down at all when you’re doing distant learning in a pandemic, because you have to maintain all of your infrastructures."

The Arizona School Boards Association is one of many groups calling on state leaders to change the funding formula for distance learning.

"It’s a very, very serious problem, and it’s not a political issue," said Chuck Essigs with the Arizona Association of School Business Officials. "It’s a financial issue."

According to The Arizona Department of Education’s latest data estimates, public schools will lose out on more than $250 million this school year alone because of COVID-19 closures.

"The state budget already contains funding to fund schools at 100%, so it’s not a matter of they don’t have the funding. It’s in their budget," said Essigs.

The state is also saving money on education this year because enrollment is down by about 50,000 students. It is up to elected officials to make formula changes, or allocate the unused state budget money to go back to schools.

"Districts will have to lay off teachers or other staff," said Kotterman. "Then, when we get to the other side of this, they will not have enough staff to deliver services effectively."

Kotterman says through the CARES Act, there was $370 million available for districts to fill the financial gaps, but the money has run out, and there’s not enough to cover the losses for school districts.

FOX 10 has reached out to Gov. Ducey's office for comment, but we have yet to receive a response.

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COVID-19 symptoms

Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu. 

Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.

RELATED: Is it the flu, a cold or COVID-19? Different viruses present similar symptoms

COVID-19 resources

CDC Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)

AZDHS Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)