IT funding zeroed out


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: March 14th, 2017

Arizona Launches Arizona Broadband for Education Initiative

(Phoenix, Ariz., March 14, 2017) – In order to expand K-12 Internet access, affordability and student digital learning opportunities in schools across the state, most notably in rural areas, Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas today applauded the funding of the Arizona Broadband for Education Initiative.

The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) voted this morning to approve the one-time expansion of the existing Arizona Universal Service Fund (AUSF) to assist in the state matching investment of this program. The new grant will allow Arizona to receive ten dollars of funding for every dollar the state invests into the initiative.

Ultimately, the project could bring hundreds of millions of dollars in services to the state.

“Equal access to broadband services is critical to the success of a child’s education in the 21st century,” Superintendent Douglas said. “This program is an incredible opportunity for underserved children from small schools in rural parts of Arizona to have the same technology opportunities that are afforded to other children in the state.”

Last March, Arizona was one of the few states to be awarded the 2016 K-12 Broadband and Digital Learning Policy Academy grant through a partnership between the National Governor’s Association (NGA) Center, EducationSuperHighway (ESH) and the K-12 Broadband and Digital Learning Policy Academy.

“I commend my staff at the Department for making this opportunity a reality for so many students in rural areas,” Superintendent Douglas said. “My Public Information Officer, Stefan Swiat, wrote the grant application that enabled Arizona to have this opportunity, while State E-Rate Controller Milan Eaton has worked tirelessly to sign up as many schools as possible. My staff and

I look forward to implementing this incredible program, which will bring tangible resources to rural students, schools and communities throughout the state.”

Designed to help support and guide states seeking to provide nearly every student with access to high-speed Internet, Wi-Fi access and enhanced digital learning, the NGA, ESH and Policy Academy will provide Arizona with advice and support on best practices in education, as well as help inform the scope and structure of the implementation process.

A thorough review estimates that the state match for this program may range from $8-13 million and that internet connectivity projects may span more than two years and benefit nearly 100,000 Arizona students. The state investment will draw down significant E-rate funds, which, in a majority of school systems, may pay for the entire cost of infrastructure construction.

To accomplish the state match, Commissioner Tobin and the ACC proposed establishing a new program which uses the AUSF fund to provide a portion of the state matching funds. A one-time distribution of $8 million from the existing AUSF would serve as the large portion of the state’s match, supporting telecommunications carriers which serve in high-cost areas of rural Arizona.

Since the grant was awarded, the Superintendent and Arizona Department of Education staff have worked to ensure participation from schools throughout the state. While all 15 counties already have a school moving forward with this initiative, as many as 200 school districts and charter schools have already applied for broadband services.

“While the Arizona Department of Education has provided the technological expertise, support and one-on-one engagement on this program, the Corporation Commission has taken the lead financially to ensure that this once-in-a-lifetime initiative is funded,” Superintendent Douglas added. “Although I would have preferred that the funding come from the general fund, I am pleased that so many students will reap the technological benefits of broadband such as online classes and digital learning access, as well as the ability to conduct state-of-the-art STEM experiments.”

Schools and districts are encouraged to apply through an easy and straightforward process that is also available for the following fiscal year. Those interested in this opportunity are encouraged to contact EducationSuperHighway Outreach Coordinator Alyssa Cubello at [email protected] or State E-Rate Controller for Schools Milan Eaton at [email protected].

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Published: Published: February 27th, 2017

ADE Launches Legislative Email Campaign to Preserve 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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