TUSD responds to expenses revealed by national education nonprof - Tucson News Now

TUSD responds to expenses revealed by national education nonprofit

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Seventeen million dollars in the hole and with school closures as part of its solution, Tucson Unified School District's actions last year have nonprofit Education Action Group, one that supports school choice and looks into districts across the country, focusing its attention here.

"Over 90 percent of students are in traditional public schools, and so that's where a lot of the scrutiny is applied," explained Education Action Group founder and CEO Kyle Olson.

The nonprofit pointed out more than $389,000 in airfare and hotels last school year, at places such as Loews Ventana Canyon here and Mandarin Oriental hotel in Washington, D.C.

"The majority of the costs and the activities that they have pointed out is student activities.  And, I want to reiterate that we have multiple audits, and every single audit we had, that we had not one single finding related to compliance," said TUSD deputy superintendent Yousef Awwad.

He explained that students will raise money for events or trips and pay through the district which shows as an expense.  As for employee travel, he said that the district receives specific funding for conferences, and that the host locations can be the cheapest alternative.

"Because it's very discounted rate, even though it's a luxury resort sometimes, the rate makes more sense to stay in the hotel where the conference is held at, because it's discounted rate, even if you stay somewhere else and you rent a car, it will cost you more," Awwad said.

As for more than $800,000 in legal fees, most relate to TUSD's desegregation case, as well as more than $200,000 to special master Willis Hawley overseeing it, which comes from specific federal funding.  Five million dollars in computers are covered by capital funding and a grant from the state.

"It would not have affected our budget deficit in any shape or form.  As a matter of fact, we have been carrying balances in the grants area from year after year.  But we can't use that money to off-set our deficit," Awwad said.

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