Arizona Department of Education IT Funding

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Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas will discuss the lack of information technology systems funding by the state legislature for Arizona Department of Education. Douglas says the lack of funding for IT systems could have severe consequences for public and charter schools throughout Arizona.

TED SIMONS: ARIZONA SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION DIANE DOUGLAS IS RAISING CONCERNS OVER THE LACK OF FUNDING FOR DATA SYSTEMS AT THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION. SHE SAYS THE LACK OF FUNDING COULD HAVE SEVERE CONSEQUENCES FOR PUBLIC AND CHARTER SCHOOLS THROUGHOUT THE STATE. WE WELCOME DIANE DOUGLAS TO ARIZONA HORIZON. GREAT TO SEE YOU AGAIN.

DIANE DOUGLAS: GREAT TO BE BACK TED, THANK YOU.

TED SIMONS: LACK OF FUNDING FOR I.T. SYSTEMS. WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT HERE?

DIANE DOUGLAS: UNLIKE ANY OTHER STATE AGENCY, WE HAVE NO MONEY IN OUR BASELINE BUDGET TO RUN THE COMPUTER SYSTEMS FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION WHICH RUNS BASICALLY EVERY SINGLE SYSTEM EDUCATION-RELATED THROUGHOUT THE STATE. THE LAST TIME I WAS HERE, I BELIEVE WE WERE TALKING ABOUT MY ARIZONA KIDS CAN'T WAIT PLAN AND A 5% SALARY INCREASE FOR OUR TEACHERS. WELL, IF WE CAN'T RUN AN I.T. SYSTEM, TEACHER SALARY DECREASES WILL BE 100% AND WE CAN'T HAVE THAT HAPPEN.

TED SIMONS: YOU'RE ASKING FOR $17.6 MILLION FOR THIS DATA SYSTEM. WHAT EXACTLY WOULD THAT PAY FOR?

DIANE DOUGLAS: WELL, IT'S BEEN A SYSTEM THAT'S BEEN OVER CREATION FOR SEVERAL YEARS NOW. IT REPLACES A SYSTEM THAT WAS BASICALLY AT THE END OF ITS LIFE AND CRASHING ROUTINELY. WE'VE BEEN WORKING ON IT. $10 MILLION WOULD PAY FOR THE ONGOING MAINTENANCE TO MAKE SURE THAT SYSTEM STAYS UP AND RUNS AND SUPPORTS ABOUT 100 -- BETWEEN 100 AND 150 OTHER SYSTEMS THAT OUR SCHOOLS USE. AND THEN WE NEED ABOUT $7 MILLION TO CREATE THE SYSTEMS THAT PAY THE MONEY OUT TO THE SCHOOLS. $5 BILLION IN STATE FUND AND $1 BILLION IN FEDERAL FUNDING. SO WITHOUT THAT, CHILDREN WON'T GET THEIR FREE AND REDUCED FUNDING TO HAVE MEALS.

TED SIMONS: I WAS GOING TO SAY, IF THIS FUNDING DOESN'T HAPPEN, ARE WE TALKING ABOUT MONEY THAT SHOULD BE GOING TO SCHOOLS AND SUCH NOT GOING THERE?

DIANE DOUGLAS: THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT. WE ARE TALKING ABOUT BASICALLY THE DEFUNDING OF PUBLIC EDUCATION IN ARIZONA BECAUSE WE WILL BE UNABLE TO GET THE MONEY TO THE SCHOOLS, TO THE DISTRICTS, AND TO THE CLASSROOMS.

TED SIMONS: HOW DID THE AGENCY GET TO THIS SITUATION?

DIANE DOUGLAS: THERE WAS NOT A RECOMMENDATION MADE IN THE GOVERNOR'S BUDGET TO FUND THIS I.T. PROGRAM. BUT I AM ENCOURAGED THAT I WAS ABLE TO SPEAK WITH THE GOVERNOR TODAY. AND ALTHOUGH WE DON'T HAVE A NUMBER AND I DON'T HAVE ANYTHING THAT I CAN BE ASSURED OF AT THIS POINT, WE WILL KEEP WORKING AND KEEP THE LINES OF COMMUNICATION OPEN TO MAKE SURE THAT WE ARE ABLE TO GET THIS CRUCIAL FUNDING FOR OUR STUDENTS.

TED SIMONS: BUT AGAIN, I'M WONDERING HOW WE GOT HERE. IT SEEMS LIKE IT WOULD HAVE JUST HIT A WALL. WAS THIS GRADUALLY BUILDING? WE'RE GOING FROM DISTRIBUTING FUNDS TO WE MAY NOT BE DISTRIBUTING ANY FUNDS. THAT SEEMS LIKE A PRETTY STEEP CLIFF.

DIANE DOUGLAS: WE HAD NOT QUITE $8 MILLION IN THE BUDGET LAST YEAR. IT'S ALWAYS A BIT LESS THAN WE ASK FOR TO REALISTICALLY FINISH THE PROJECTS AND THIS YEAR IT WAS ZEROED OUT. I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY. WE HAD HOPED IT WAS AN OVERSIGHT. WE WERE TOLD BY STAFF IT WASN'T AN OVERSIGHT, IT WAS A CONSCIOUS DECISION. AS THEY LOOK AT OTHER AREAS OF THE BUDGET, I REALLY CAN'T EXPLAIN IT, BUT I AM OPTIMISTIC THAT WE WILL KEEP WORKING TOGETHER TO GET A RESOLUTION, BECAUSE WE MUST.

TED SIMONS: IF I'M NOT MISTAKEN, OTHER AGENCIES GOT I.T. UPDATE MONEY.

DIANE DOUGLAS: YES. THE ONE -- THE TWO SYSTEMS THAT I JUST MENTIONED APOR AND CHAR. APOR GIVES MONEY TO TRADITIONAL DISTRICTS, CHAR TO CHARTER SCHOOLS. THOSE SYSTEMS WERE CREATED IN 1999. WE HAVE VERY FEW CHILDREN THAT ARE EVEN IN OUR SYSTEM THAT WERE ALIVE WHEN THEY WERE CREATED. WE HAVE AGENCIES THAT ARE BEING GIVEN FUNDING THAT ARE REPLACING SYSTEMS THAT ARE A FRACTION OF THAT AGE AFTER FIVE OR SIX YEARS AND WE'RE TRYING TO REPLACE ANTIQUATED SYSTEMS.

TED SIMONS: YOU WANT $17.6 BILLION. THE GOVERNOR ZEROED YOU OUT. LET'S SAY HE THROWS BACK 6 OR $7 MILLION. IS THAT GOOD ENOUGH? ARE SCHOOLS STILL GOING TO GET THEIR MONEY?

DIANE DOUGLAS: THAT IS GOING TO GREATLY HAMPER THE SERVICES THAT WE CAN PROVIDE TO SCHOOLS. I MEAN, ONE OF THE REASONS THAT WE'RE ASKING FOR THIS NOW, I APPRECIATE THE BUDGET IS A NEGOTIATION AND THAT TAKES TIME. WE ARE IN A MARKET WHERE I.T. IS VERY HOT RIGHT NOW. WOULD YOUR STAFF, IF THEY KNEW THEY HAD ZERO SALARY ON JULY 1st, WOULD THEY STILL BE HERE? I THINK THEY'D BE LOOKING FOR OTHER JOBS. EVEN IF WE GET THE FUNDING IN MAY, WE STILL GREATLY HARM THE SYSTEM BECAUSE WE'LL LOSE A LOT OF CRUCIAL PEOPLE THAT WE NEED TO KEEP THERE FOR OUR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES.

TED SIMONS: WITH THAT IN MIND, HOW LONG CAN THE DEPARTMENT WORK WITH WHAT YOU GOT?

DIANE DOUGLAS: WELL, WE HAVE THE FUNDING FOR THIS YEAR, AND WE CAN WORK WITH THAT. BUT WE WILL BE AT ZERO ON JULY 1st. WHICH MEANS OUR SYSTEMS WILL SHUT DOWN AND THAT DOESN'T TAKE INTO ACCOUNT PEOPLE THAT MAY NOT WAIT UNTIL JULY 1st TO LOOK FOR POSITIONS.

TED SIMONS: AS FAR AS PEOPLE SAYING I'M NOT GOING TO STICK AROUND HERE.

DIANE DOUGLAS: WHO WOULD ROLL THE DICE WITH THEIR FAMILY?

TED SIMONS: YOU SAID THE GOVERNOR IS LISTENING?

DIANE DOUGLAS: WE HAD A DISCUSSION TODAY, SO THAT'S ENCOURAGING. I REACHED OUT ON FRIDAY AND WE WERE ABLE TO ACTUALLY SPEAK TODAY. I'M TOLD THERE WILL BE SOME ONGOING DISCUSSIONS, BUT WE NEED TO KNOW WHAT WE CAN ENSURE OUR PEOPLE OF. AND, YOU KNOW, ONE OF THE OTHER PROBLEMS IS -- THAT HURTS US IS THAT THE LEGISLATURE ALWAYS PASSES NEW BILLS AND OFTEN THEY IMPACT THE CODING FOR OUR COMPUTER SYSTEM LIKE CURRENT YEAR FUNDING LAST YEAR.

TED SIMONS: RIGHT.

DIANE DOUGLAS: WHICH WE HAD TO MAKE THAT ADJUSTMENT WITH NO FUNDING TO DO IT.

TED SIMONS: YEAH. THEY'RE MOVING THE GOAL POSTS AND NOT PAYING YOU FOR THE NEW GOAL POSTS.

DIANE DOUGLAS: EXACTLY.

TED SIMONS: WE'LL SEE WHERE THIS GOES. $17.6 MILLION AND THAT'S THE MAGIC NUMBER FOR YOU, I GUESS. WE'LL KEEP AN EYE ON THIS ONE.

DIANE DOUGLAS: APPRECIATE YOU DOING THAT. THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN FOR YOUR TIME.

TED SIMONS: GOOD TO SEE YOU.

DIANE DOUGLAS: THANK YOU.

Diane Douglas: Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction

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