• When Equalized School Funding is Not Equalized School Funding

    Posted by Tim Leedy at 1/30/2015 1:05:00 PM

    In an article in the Arizona Tax Research Association’s November 2014 Newsletter, it shows that statewide there are eighteen school districts that receive $211,350,871 in Desegregation money that the rest of the districts in the state don’t receive.  The districts in Maricopa County are Phoenix Union, Tempe Elementary, Roosevelt, Phoenix Elementary, Mesa Unified, Scottsdale Unified, Washington Elementary, Cartwright Elementary, Glendale Union, and Isaac Elementary.  Collectively, these districts levy an additional $132,918,565 to correct their segregation issues and/or civil rights deficiencies.

    The ability to levy the additional money came through what is commonly called a Deseg order which is handed down from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR).  The OCR ensures compliance through two methods: 1) OCR initiated cases or, 2) reviews of complaints made by any party who feels discrimination is occurring at an educational institution that receives federal funding.   If a district is found in violation, they enter into a settlement agreement with the OCR and then receive a Desegregation order letter.  Then the district is allowed to levy additional money to correct the complaint.   For example, it has been over thirty years since Tucson Unified was placed under a desegregation order and in 2014, the district levied an additional $63 million from local taxpayers to comply. 

    State audits show that the additional money is used for additional Maintenance and Operation spending capacity and is not linked directly to desegregating pupils or remediating civil rights violations. [1]

    The reason that Balsz does not have the ability to levy Deseg funds is because either no complaints were filed or the OCR did not conduct a random site visit on the district.

    This is one of many variations in school funding that can make a substantial difference in a district’s ability to pay higher salaries and why comparing teacher salaries on the surface may not be the whole story.


    [1] Sean McCarthy, “State Slammed with TUSD Deseg Costs,” Arizona Tax Research Newsletter, Vol. 74, No. 8, November 2014: 1.

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