Arizona State law requires schools to report to the Arizona Board of Education on their progress in K-3 education and what plans they have to improve their reading services. The state’s Department of Education opened a web portal so that schools can more easily file reports for getting their share of a $40 million reading improvement fund, challenges have arisen over its operation.
The filing portal comes amid a court fight between the board of education and state schools’ chief Diane Douglas over who controls the board’s staff.
While the Arizona Department of Education is has been running the portal for years now, Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas is fighting the board in court. Since the Board of Education divides the $40 million in school grants under the Move On When Reading program, it must sign an agreement giving the Department of Education a check to cover the agency’s processing costs.
Based on the reports submitted by schools, the Board decides how much money each school will get to fund their program for improving literacy among students in kindergarten through third grade. In their reports, schools have to justify the progress made so far and their plans to utilize the new grant.
The fight between the Board and the Department of Education was brought to the Court of Appeals with a trial judge rejecting Diane Douglas’ argument that the Board should report to her.
Michael Bradley, Douglas’ Chief of Staff, said that the board has two options: get its own site, or contract with the Public Instruction agency so that the Dept. of Education can process the schools’ reports. Bradley showed just how confusing this push and pull is becoming:
If they had ordered us to turn it on, we couldn’t turn it on, because then we’d be following their orders. Does that make sense? That’s the way the judge thing works. “We planned to turn it on all along. We’re not going to hold hostage school districts or anything.”
Bradley requires at least $50,000, according to the Arizona Capitol Times, in order to process all the school reports coming in. Bradley said that the portal is more than an email inbox because schools provide all kinds of reports that the Department has to turn into a coherent, uniform set of data. The Department has to then let schools know what kind of changes the Board has asked for. “It might seem easy, but it’s not,” said Bradley.
Greg Miller, the Board of Education president, characterized the $50,000 request as “ridiculous’:
“The taxpayers have already paid for all of the computer processes. There’s no reason for us to have to go and build a new portal or have an IT department or any of those suggestions. And we don’t need an intergovernmental agreement,” said Miller.
If no deal is reached, the portal will be shut down, making it difficult for schools to file their reading improvement plan reports required by law.