(Phoenix, Ariz., Feb. 8, 2017) – Arizona Department of Education (ADE) Chief of Staff Michael Bradley today concluded his budget presentations to the Arizona Legislature on behalf of the Department. Bradley first appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday before presenting ADE’s budget to the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.
In his two appearances, Bradley focused on the impact of the initial fiscal year 2018 budget recommendation released in January, which allocated zero dollars for the maintenance and support of ADE’s information technology systems. He also emphasized the severe consequences that no information technology funding could have for public and charter schools throughout Arizona as systems responsible for determining school enrollment numbers and payments begin to suffer from a lack of support.
This oversight in the state’s initial budget proposal could prevent ADE from distributing billions of dollars to Arizona’s schools. If the issue is not resolved in the near future, ADE may be unable to issue payments to schools on July 1 or earlier if left unchanged.
“It is imperative that we receive our entire budget request from the Legislature so we can continue to run our IT systems and issue payments to schools,” Bradley said. “Arizona cannot afford to dismantle an IT data system that distributes more than $5 billion of state aid to schools, especially when it has already offset the state’s investment in its construction.”
If no additional money is provided through this year’s budget process, ADE will not have the capacity to pay for the basic software and network services required to operate the data system. In addition, no IT funding would have a devastating impact on accountability, federal and state reporting, the protection of student data, the livelihood of ADE IT and school employees and more than 150 computer programs used daily by schools and ADE employees to support students.
“Our third-party, independent auditor stated that our IT system needs to receive our full budget request,” Bradley stated. “No longer can we get away with receiving just enough money to maintain our IT systems. In order to process payments accurately without our systems collapsing, we need to rebuild the current payment systems, which were constructed before anyone currently in high school was born.”
In FY 2017, ADE received a one-time allocation of $7.3 million in dedicated IT funding. However, since Prop 301 funds have expired and ADE IT must still run its antiquated systems in combination with the new, the Department is requesting $17.6 million to maintain and complete its IT projects.
If the IT budget is not fully maintained, schools will feel the effects to their funding as early as March, but no later than July 1. Since IT employees may begin accepting employment at other organizations, the performance of the IT applications that these workers maintain will begin to decline.