Mesa Public Schools Ignored Request for Data on $32.3 Million ‘COVID’ Expenditures

Mesa Public Schools Ignored Request for Data on $32.3 Million ‘COVID’ Expenditures

By Corinne Murdock |

Mesa Public Schools (MPS) ignored additional requests from our reporters to obtain data on how $32.3 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds were spent. In March, MPS told AZ Free News that no records existed detailing how exactly those funds were spent. 

Over a month ago, AZ Free News inquired about records for the chart of accounts related to Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding. There were three separate COVID-19 federal relief grants administered: ESSER I, coded under 326; ESSER II, coded under 336; and ESSER III, coded under 346.

We requested those records because the public ESSER report given by MPS in December didn’t offer an in-depth explanation. MPS attributed those tens of millions spent to a variety of ambiguous explanations: “other,” “etc,” “indirect costs,” and “COVID relief positions.”

When we asked for further information about the $32.3 million, MPS told us they couldn’t offer further explanation of those expenditures because they weren’t required by law to create records. 

Of the over $4 billion Arizona received in ESSER funding, MPS received the second-largest allotment: around $229.2 million. Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) received the most in the state. 

Last October, MPS reported that they had nearly $40 million remaining in their maintenance and operation funds. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Mesa Public Schools: No Records Exist for Over $32.3 Million ‘COVID’ Expenditures

Mesa Public Schools: No Records Exist for Over $32.3 Million ‘COVID’ Expenditures

By Corinne Murdock |

Mesa Public Schools (MPS) won’t explain where over $32.3 million of their federal emergency funds slated for COVID-related expenditures went. The lack of transparency calls into question the amount of funds funneled into undisclosed areas potentially unrelated to education while teachers struggle for increased salaries and school supply funding. 

AZ Free News inquired with MPS about their COVID-19 expenditures after readers requested we look into reports that teachers were asking parents to donate basic supplies like paper because they were running out — and apparently their district wouldn’t cover it. In its annual financial report submitted last October, MPS reported nearly $40 million remaining in their maintenance and operation funds

That led AZ Free News to look into MPS expenditures. The millions we inquired about came from their latest public Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) report. Specifically, we inquired about what was behind the repeated listings of “indirect costs,” “other,” and “etc” expenditures that MPS allocated millions of dollars toward. AZ Free News focused on these expenditures:

  • Page 8: the “other (includes indirect costs)” totaling over $16 million
  • Page 9: the “etc” expenditures under PPE totaling nearly $1.7 million
  • Page 9: the “other” and “indirect costs” together totaling over $554,000
  • Page 10: the “COVID relief positions” totaling over $122,000
  • Page 10: the “indirect costs” totaling nearly $4.3 million
  • Page 12: the “indirect costs” totaling over $9.6 million

With each public records request, MPS officials would refer us back to the public ESSER report. After several follow-ups, MPS General Counsel Kacey King informed AZ Free News that MPS could not fulfill the request further because explanation of those additional expenditures in full would require MPS to “create records.” Under Arizona law, government entities aren’t required to create records that they don’t have. 

In all, Arizona has received over $4 billion in ESSER funding. MPS received some of the largest bulk of that funding, coming in second for most ESSER funds received: around $229.2 million, coming in second only to Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Hoffman Grateful For “American Rescue Plan’s” $2.6 Billion In Funding

Hoffman Grateful For “American Rescue Plan’s” $2.6 Billion In Funding

By Lori Hunnicutt |

After having already received over $1 billion in CARES ACT ESSER and ESSER II funding for Arizona’s schools, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman issued a publicly paid for press release to expressed her gratitude to Arizona’s democratic congressional delegation for the passage of the American Rescue Plan.

According to Hoffman, the Plan will provide nearly $2.6 billion dollars to Arizona for K-12 education, of which the Arizona Department of Education will allocate 90% of those funds directly to public schools.

“The latest round of federal relief and recovery dollars comes at a time of high need for Arizona’s schools and families as many prepare for a return to some degree of in-person learning. From teaching and learning to providing critical wrap around supports, over the past year, every Arizonan has seen just how essential our schools are to our communities,” said Hoffman in her press release. “I am grateful to the members of Arizona’s delegation who supported the American Rescue Plan, their advocacy and their votes are essential to our recovery as a state.”

As noted by Hoffman, schools are essential, and as a result, parents have gone in search of those essential service providers. Public school enrollment is down by approximately 38,000 students for the 2020-2021 school year compared to last year.

Despite the fact that the Arizona Department of Education released a report showing public school enrollment is declining dramatically, funding for schools is growing due to COVID by nearly the same dramatic rate.

ESSER allocations were only for Title I districts and were set by the federal government. Non title I districts did not receive a direct allocation from the federal government through the CARES act so the Department used its discretionary funds to ensure they had access to relief dollars, according to Richie Taylor with the Arizona Department of Education.

TOP 20 ESSR RECEIPIENTS TOP 20 ESSR II RECEIPIENTS
LEA NAME ESSER Fund Allocation ESSER II Allocation TOTAL
Tucson Unified District $18,558,099.29 $76,396,636.50 $94,954,735.79
Mesa Unified District $17,062,873.58 $70,241,361.27 $87,304,234.85
Phoenix Union High School District $11,993,688.79 $49,373,455.48 $61,367,144.27
Cartwright Elementary District $7,999,141.31 $32,929,422.74 $40,928,564.05
Washington Elementary School District $7,318,952.59 $30,129,344.49 $37,448,297.08
Alhambra Elementary District $6,507,560.37 $26,789,151.34 $33,296,711.71
Sunnyside Unified District $5,721,902.88 $23,554,897.94 $29,276,800.82
Glendale Elementary District $4,804,642.37 $19,778,885.64 $24,583,528.01
Roosevelt Elementary District $4,701,263.40 $19,329,140.54 $24,030,403.94
Paradise Valley Unified District $4,513,659.06 $18,581,882.84 $23,095,541.90
Phoenix Elementary District $4,420,353.51 $17,741,161.13 $22,161,514.64
Peoria Unified School District $4,230,397.55 $17,414,938.09 $21,645,335.64
Glendale Union High School District $4,163,991.22 $17,141,568.48 $21,305,559.70
Dysart Unified District $3,914,351.21 $16,114,569.28 $20,028,920.49
Isaac Elementary District $3,839,593.72 $15,565,659.76 $19,405,253.48
Deer Valley Unified District $3,656,154.10 $15,072,832.22 $18,728,986.32
Chandler Unified District #80 $3,276,351.66 $13,574,728.96 $16,851,080.62
Creighton Elementary District $3,317,717.18 $13,452,995.34 $16,770,712.52
Amphitheater Unified District $3,173,678.01 $13,002,600.04 $16,176,278.05

TOP 50 ESSR RECEIPIENTS TOP 50 ESSR II RECEIPIENTS
LEA NAME ESSER Fund Allocation LEA NAME ESSER II Allocation
Tucson Unified District $18,558,099.29 Tucson Unified District $76,396,636.50
Mesa Unified District $17,062,873.58 Mesa Unified District $70,241,361.27
Phoenix Union High School District $11,993,688.79 Phoenix Union High School District $49,373,455.48
Cartwright Elementary District $7,999,141.31 Cartwright Elementary District $32,929,422.74
Washington Elementary School District $7,318,952.59 Washington Elementary School District $30,129,344.49
Alhambra Elementary District $6,507,560.37 Alhambra Elementary District $26,789,151.34
Sunnyside Unified District $5,721,902.88 Sunnyside Unified District $23,554,897.94
Glendale Elementary District $4,804,642.37 Glendale Elementary District $19,778,885.64
Roosevelt Elementary District $4,701,263.40 Roosevelt Elementary District $19,329,140.54
Paradise Valley Unified District $4,513,659.06 Paradise Valley Unified District $18,581,882.84
Phoenix Elementary District $4,420,353.51 Phoenix Elementary District $17,741,161.13
Peoria Unified School District $4,230,397.55 Peoria Unified School District $17,414,938.09
Glendale Union High School District $4,163,991.22 Glendale Union High School District $17,141,568.48
Dysart Unified District $3,914,351.21 Dysart Unified District $16,114,569.28
Isaac Elementary District $3,839,593.72 Isaac Elementary District $15,565,659.76
Deer Valley Unified District $3,656,154.10 Deer Valley Unified District $15,072,832.22
Creighton Elementary District $3,317,717.18 Chandler Unified District #80 $13,574,728.96
Chandler Unified District #80 $3,276,351.66 Creighton Elementary District $13,452,995.34
Amphitheater Unified District $3,173,678.01 Amphitheater Unified District $13,002,600.04
Tempe School District $2,599,800.98 Yuma Union High School District $10,524,843.43
Yuma Union High School District $2,556,671.32 Chinle Unified District $10,485,054.40
Gilbert Unified District $2,361,129.01 Tempe School District $10,097,765.41
Chinle Unified District $2,311,140.03 Gilbert Unified District $9,719,870.46
Pendergast Elementary District $2,051,218.76 Academy of Mathematics and Science South, Inc. $8,669,827.51
Scottsdale Unified District $2,039,036.15 Pendergast Elementary District $8,495,439.77
Yuma Elementary District $1,987,817.13 Scottsdale Unified District $8,428,712.94
Academy of Mathematics and Science South, Inc. $1,936,851.39 Yuma Elementary District $8,183,087.04
Douglas Unified District $1,912,733.71 Douglas Unified District $7,873,997.23
Nogales Unified District $1,864,660.69 Nogales Unified District $7,676,098.84
Tolleson Union High School District $1,839,218.99 Tolleson Union High School District $7,571,365.40
Casa Grande Elementary District $1,718,113.97 Casa Grande Elementary District $7,072,934.77
Balsz Elementary District $1,649,049.88 Kingman Unified School District $6,767,033.37
Kingman Unified School District $1,643,832.54 Fowler Elementary District $6,728,290.92
Fowler Elementary District $1,634,421.24 Balsz Elementary District $6,676,508.92
Florence Unified School District $1,591,119.78 Florence Unified School District $6,608,113.68
Flagstaff Unified District $1,571,344.58 Whiteriver Unified District $6,545,727.43
Sierra Vista Unified District $1,446,034.29 Kayenta Unified District $6,308,720.55
Whiteriver Unified District $1,320,524.94 Flagstaff Unified District $6,137,515.48
Gadsden Elementary District $1,305,353.14 Sierra Vista Unified District $5,507,013.62
Coolidge Unified District $1,301,824.05 Gadsden Elementary District $5,373,642.41
Apache Junction Unified District $1,289,942.00 Flowing Wells Unified District $5,237,156.31
Flowing Wells Unified District $1,261,038.47 American Leadership Academy, Inc. $5,169,312.09
Osborn Elementary District $1,249,531.15 Apache Junction Unified District $5,111,069.81
Crane Elementary District $1,195,318.52 Coolidge Unified District $4,983,582.74
Kayenta Unified District $1,189,663.56 Crane Elementary District $4,920,671.69
Murphy Elementary District $1,169,915.43 Humboldt Unified District $4,801,577.92
Humboldt Unified District $1,166,388.53 Marana Unified District $4,777,558.60
Marana Unified District $1,151,547.40 Avondale Elementary District $4,761,816.09
Avondale Elementary District $1,149,022.62 Osborn Elementary District $4,751,065.08


While multiple studies show that students are suffering greatly from school closures including increased anxiety and even suicide, Hoffman has been nearly silent on the subject of student mental health and what programs might be developed with the millions in surplus monies not allocated to schools to improve students’ mental and intellectual well-being.