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Arizona Charters Sue to Keep $6 Million in State Money

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The Arizona Charter Schools Association has filed a lawsuit against the state's department of education to block the agency from recouping nearly $6 million that were distributed to those schools in error.

The funds in question were raised through a sales tax levy, Proposition 301, which was approved by voters in 2000. The money was earmarked for teacher pay and instructional support. According to AZCentral.com, in January, the department uncovered an error in the distribution of those funds that had overpaid some schools nearly $6 million ($5.89 million to be exact), while underpaying others by $38 million since 2006.

Seventy percent of the schools that were overpaid were charter schools, prompting the Arizona Charter Schools Association to get involved.

Since January, the department has distributed the correct funds to the underpaid schools and spent the past several months in negotiations with the Arizona Charter Schools Association to work out how to recoup the overpaid funds. The department has proposed a plan that will require those schools that were overpaid to pay back the funds over five years starting next week.

About 200 charter schools would be required to pay back the funds.

But the Arizona Charter Schools Association says the plan is unconstitutional and is now challenging that decision in court.

This news segment (also from AZCentral.com) sums up the positions of the various groups involved in the fight. It features the attorney from the Arizona Charter School Association and the attorney from the Arizona Department of Education, as well as a charter school operator, who talks about the impact of the potential loss of funds on his schools.

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