Attorney General's Office Issues Legal Opinion Regarding the Use of School District Funds for COVID-19 Health-Related Purposes

PHOENIX – The Attorney General’s Office issued a new legal opinion today relating to the permitted use of school district funds to make health-related expenditures for families, students, and community members in response to COVID-19. In short, the opinion concludes Arizona school districts can use district funds, as long as the health-related expenditures meet specific legal criteria.

Representative T.J. Shope recently posed the following question to the office:

May a school district use district funds to make health-related and other expenditures for families, students, and community members in response to an emergency health crisis such as COVID-19?

The opinion concludes that Arizona school districts have the legal authority to make certain emergency health crisis expenditures on behalf of the community, as long as the expenditures:

  1. Are statutorily authorized;
  2. Do not violate the Arizona Constitution’s Gift Clause; and
  3. Comply with any other lawful restrictions or requirements imposed by the funding source.

Potential Funding Sources

There are several funding sources potentially available for school districts to make health-related expenditures for COVID-19 purposes, including state and federal grants.

Arizona schools may be (or are) eligible for funds under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Eligible school districts may use awarded grants from the CARES Act for twelve authorized purposes, which are spelled out in greater detail here (pages 285-87).

Other potential COVID-19 health-related funding sources for school districts include:

  • Gifts and donations (schools may not enter into agreements that restrict the board’s ability to make future policy decisions in response to changing conditions)
  • Student activity funds (subject to approval and oversight by the school district and input from students)
  • Leasing school property for any lawful purpose (school buildings, grounds, buses, and equipment, to any person, group, or organization)

A copy of the full opinion.