AZ FREE NEWS: Arizona Public Schools Have Over $1 Billion in Surplus

by | Feb 29, 2024 | In The News

According to a recent report by Corinne Murdock in AZ Free News, Arizona’s public schools have over $1 billion in surplus funds.

Tim McCain, the Arizona Department of Education’s chief financial officer, revealed the substantial maintenance and operations (M&O) budget carried forward during a House Appropriations Subcommittee meeting. The story quotes McCain:

“Budget balance carry forward goes to the next year for their increase, so their budget will be increased by the amount that they carried forward to the next year,” said McCain. “[Schools] would be able to spend those monies in the future as they go forward.”

McCain says this surplus has been fueled by increased K-12 funding, districts mitigating risk due to inflation, a decrease in enrollment, an influx of federal COVID-19 relief, and an increase in education funding overall, among other factors.

Additionally, the M&O budget carry forward has a generally positive trajectory, growing from $400 million in 2020 to over $1 billion this year. These budgetary increases carried forward function to raise schools’ budgets.

This $1 billion surplus, though indirectly associated, still brings into question claims made by educational freedom opponents that programs such as Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) are bankrupting the state and draining funds from public schools (which they’re not). It also strengthens statements made recently by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne:

“Critics who falsely claimed ESAs were the cause of the budget deficit erroneously counted the gross cost for each student without adjusting for the cost that would be incurred if those students were in public school … ESAs give choice to parents at any income level whose child’s needs are not being met in local schools, an ability rich parents have always had.”

Read the full story here, or read Tom Horne’s report here.

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