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Democrats asked why the Arizona Education Department is withholding funding. Horne says it isn't

Arizona House Democrats who also work as teachers asked the state Department of Education to explain why it’s withholding federal funding from schools, but the department officials say it’s actually the federal government who is making cuts under Title I.

In March, Republican Superintendent Tom Horne asked school leaders to prepare for 20% less funding in federal payments under Title I, which allocates money designated to low-income students. 

“We never would cut federal funds. The federal government cut our allocation because we have less children in poverty and all we do is distribute the money, and if we had a choice we would increase the money,” Horne said.

But Democrats say the department’s announcement was unprecedented and forces schools to make cuts now. 

“There are definite big consequences the school districts are having to face. They’re having to cut millions and millions of dollars from their budgets at the last minute here,” Rep. Judy Schwiebert (D-Phoenix) said.

The federal budget isn’t finalized yet — government officials are set to release the real percentage Arizona schools must cut by the end of this week. The lawmakers asked the Education Department to explain how they reached the 20% figure and provide other information about the decision.

Schwiebert said the department responded to the request and will meet with the lawmakers soon.

The Arizona Education Association is the state’s largest teacher union. It’s led by President Marisol Garcia. She said it’s true that the ADE isn’t the one controlling the funding, but she said their warning to prepare for 20% cuts has disrupted teachers’ lives.

Garcia said it’s unprecedented in her 15 years of experience for the department to issue a warning like this asking schools to prepare for cuts before the funding allocations are announced.

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Camryn Sanchez is a field correspondent at KJZZ covering everything to do with state politics.