Hale helping Red Mesa Unified School District recover from enrollment reporting error
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), is working to help the Red Mesa Unified School District recover from a mistake that is jeopardizing the district’s financial stability.
Today, Hale successfully amended SB 1447, a school finance bill, to allow RMUSD more time to pay back the $2.4 million it owes the Arizona Department of Education for inadvertently including out-of-state students in the district enrollment figures for three years.
“There are schools in this district that are near the Four Corners region. Sometimes children live in one state but attend a school in another state, when the out-of-state school is closer to their homes. The district mistakenly counted these youth as in-state students,” Hale said. “As a result, the ADE overpaid RMUSD by $2.4 million.”
Hale added that RMUSD reported the mistake to the ADE in 2011 and is already reimbursing the state.
“Current law requires that the debt must be completely paid off in two years. This is creating such a burden for the school district that it could have to close schools,” Hale said. “My amendment will extend the repayment period to five years, providing the district the financial flexibility needed to meet its obligations and continue to serve students.”
Hale added that there is a process for interstate school enrollment.
“To prevent this from happening again, school districts need to know that there must be a formal agreement in place to account for out-of-state students. It’s like a state student exchange program. Districts also have the option of requiring out-of-state students to pay tuition,” Hale said. “I commend the district for reporting this problem and don’t think the students should lose their school because of a mistake. I believe a lot of my colleagues share this sentiment, which is why this effort is getting bipartisan support. I have faith that it will make it to the governor’s desk.”