Governor’s initial budget recommendation


Published: Published: April 3rd, 2017

Continued Budget Uncertainty Causes Another IT Staffer to Exit

(Phoenix, Ariz., March 31, 2017) – The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) announced Friday the departure of yet another experienced Information Technology employee. The employee is the latest in a series of exits from an award-winning IT team that have all cited “job uncertainty” as their reason for accepting positions elsewhere.

In the Arizona House of Representatives’ initial draft budget framework released this week, ADE was allocated a one-time funding of $7.3 million. That amount would provide resources desperately needed for the maintenance and basic operations of the Department’s data system, but it would still not allow ADE to finish developing its student data system; begin development on its payment system that was created in 1999; fund any new initiatives passed during this legislative session; pursue school-level funding initiatives; or provide reassurance of employment for ADE’s IT staff.

Additionally, the lack of any ongoing maintenance funding would continue to create instability for data system support in future years. ADE’s initial request for IT funding was $17.6 million for FY18, which included $10.1 million in maintenance and $7.6 million for development.

The most recent employee to leave the organization was the only staff member responsible for project-level financial reporting on AELAS, which is the overarching collection of systems that calculate school payments. After graduating from the Thunderbird School of Global Management with an MBA, this full-time employee worked on strategic financial management of IT systems for three years, focusing on reporting and forecasting for AELAS and the 150-plus IT systems that schools utilize daily.

“It is very telling that we lost an employee whose primary focus was to work on the IT budget,” Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas said. “It is always disappointing to lose good people, but it is even more discouraging when all of this could have been prevented by having funds annually allocated to our IT maintenance budget, just like many other major state agencies do. I hope the Legislature can provide us as soon as possible with some clear assurances that we will be able to keep our staff and that schools will be paid without any issues both this year and in the future.”

Arizona has seen unprecedented job growth in IT over the past decade, rated second among all states in that category. In June of 2016, Forbes magazine even named the Phoenix metro area as the city “winning the battle for IT jobs.”

“Since Arizona has such a red-hot IT market, I’m afraid that we will lose more valuable employees to other external offers,” the Superintendent said. “If I had a family to support and no guarantee of a job on July 1, I would start looking too.”

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Published: Published: February 28th, 2017

ADE Launches Legislative Email Campaign to Preserve Education Funding

(Phoenix, Ariz., Feb. 27, 2017) – The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) and Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas launched an email campaign today to show unwavering support for the IT funding necessary to pay teachers, pay schools and protect student data. The campaign comes as a response to the many education stakeholders and concerned citizens who requested a platform to voice their support of Information Technology (IT) funding for the department.

In order to underscore the urgency of restoring IT funding, the “Be Heard Arizona! Email Campaign” provides Arizonans with a template email to communicate this vital necessity to their legislators. The initial fiscal year 2018 budget recommendation released in January did not allocate any funds for the maintenance and support of ADE’s IT systems that are responsible for determining school enrollment numbers and distributing billions of dollars to Arizona’s schools.

“I cannot emphasize the importance of urgency in this matter enough,” said Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas. “My staff has spoken with the governor’s office privately and they have assured us that they want to see schools and teachers paid. However, if we cannot promise our award-winning IT staff that they will have a job on July 1, they will leave to take advantage of the booming IT market in Phoenix.”

Two programmers have already left the Department for positions elsewhere, one of which cited job uncertainty as his reason for leaving in an exit interview. If the nearly 130 ADE IT staff members continue to accept external offers, the performance of the IT systems that pay schools, take attendance and distribute free and reduced lunch will undoubtedly be affected.

Those interested in helping raise the Arizona Legislature’s awareness about this issue can visit www.azed.gov/beheardAZ. The user-friendly letter prepopulated on the website also allows for personal comments to be added.

“The campaign’s goal is for the legislature and governor’s office to assure me that we will have the funding necessary to preserve my staff’s employment,” the Superintendent said. “We urge every citizen to join us in emphasizing to the Arizona Legislature that this critical issue get immediately resolved. Since this could affect the future of all of our schools, teachers and students, there has not been a more important issue I have faced during my tenure as Superintendent.”

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Published: Published: February 8th, 2017

ADE Concludes IT Budget Presentation to House and Senate

(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.

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Published: Published: January 12th, 2017

Budget Issue Could Prevent ADE From Paying Schools

(Phoenix, Ariz., Jan. 12, 2017) – Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas today brought attention to an issue in Gov. Ducey’s FY 2018 budget proposal that if left unchanged through the budget process would render the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) unable to issue payments to schools as early as July 1. Friday’s budget recommendation allocated zero dollars for the maintenance and support of ADE’s information technology systems, including those responsible for determining school enrollment numbers and payments, which will cripple its ability to calculate and distribute funding.

“I certainly appreciate that Governor Ducey has made education a top priority in his budget, and I was very pleased to see that many of the ideas he has included are similar to the proposals in my 2017 AZ Kids Can’t Wait! plan,” said Superintendent Douglas. “Unfortunately, without any funding to support the data system that allows us to collect enrollment information from schools and calculate their allocations, we will soon be unable to process the payments that support Arizona schools, teachers, and students.”

ADE received $7.3 million in one-time dedicated IT funding for FY 2017. If no additional money is provided through this year’s budget process, ADE would be unable to pay for the basic software and network services required to operate the data system, much less support its continued development. The lack of funding also would have a devastating impact on over 150 applications used by schools and ADE employees to support students.

“I have every confidence that as a successful businessman the Governor will realize that this investment is critical to our state and our children and that he will work with the Legislature to ensure that our Department has the resources it needs to continue funding and serving our schools,” the Superintendent continued. “We cannot afford to jeopardize all of the work that has been done to create this state-of-the-art system, and we cannot leave our schools without the money they need to educate students.”

Realizing that ADE’s data system was at risk of going entirely unfunded without a new appropriation for FY 2018, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee also has identified the $7.3 million in one-time spending allocated in FY 2017 as a possible retention candidate in the FY 2018 budget.

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