- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 24, 2019

PHOENIX (AP) - State education officials want Arizona State University’s charter schools to pay back more than $5 million in state funding the schools have received over the past three years.

The state Department of Education told ASU Prep schools last month that it had inappropriately paid out small-school weight funding, the Arizona Republic reported Monday.

The state also wants to take back the $800,000 in funding budgeted for the current fiscal year, ASU spokeswoman Katie Paquet said. The schools, which serve more than 2,100 students on several Phoenix-area campuses, have received all but $200,000. The rest will be withheld from future state disbursements.

The loss of funding this year means the charter schools will have to “consider the elimination of teaching and staffing positions,” ASU Prep said in a letter to the department last month.

“This is not hyperbole. I assure you that the reduction in funding at this time of the year will have a significant impact on students and staff,” ASU Prep CEO Beatriz Rendón wrote to the department.



State legislators changed the law about which schools qualify for small-school weight funding four years ago. Attorney General Mark Brnovich wrote an opinion on the change in 2015, saying charter schools that are not sponsored by the state charter school board are excluded from the funding. ASU Prep is not sponsored by the board.

The department found the funding error during a review of charter school contracts, said Stefan Swiat, a department spokesman.

“It revealed that guidance originally provided by ADE to ASU Prep was incorrect and did not account for all aspects of the changing statute,” Swiat said.

The schools should not be liable for the funding from past years because they were relying on the department’s advice, ASU Prep said.

The charter schools are appealing the department’s decision with an administrative law judge, Paquet said. If the appeal is unsuccessful, the schools might have to look at financing options to pay back the $5.3 million.

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Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com

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